Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline
The ambulance raced down the two lane road through the
green pastures of Tennessee as Kathryn Timms convulsed under
the nylon straps of the gurney inside. Through her tears
she could see a blur of an EMT drawing medication from a
vial. Just as the man punctured Kathryn’s skin with the 22
gauge needle, she squirmed, lodging the needle deep in her
arm. She had wanted to make the convulsions look real to
gain access to the clinic, but hadn’t counted on the EMTs
“Goddamnit. I missed,” he said.
“Fucking rookie,” the other said, grabbing her arm.
“Give her to me.” The second one jerked Kathryn’s arm into
the light and found the vein. “It’s all in the wrist,” he
said and laughed.
The jarring of the gurney awoke Kathryn and in her
medicated fog, she could hear the commotion of the emergency
“Talk to me, Ray?” the doctor asked running along side
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 2
of the patient.
“Found her at the Jensen’s hardware store,” the EMT
replied, speaking quickly. “Mr. Jensen said she began
having seizures back by where they keep the nails and
“Pretty normal. Pulse 80, BP 120 over 90. Temp 98.5,”
replied the EMT.
Kathryn felt the soft hands of the doctor as he lifted
one eyelid to check the pupil. “What’s your name?” He was
a black man who looked too young to be a doctor. He had a
smooth, soothing voice and a warm, caring touch.
“I.D. says Melanie Tillman,” answered Ray. “Thirty.
From Michigan. No one at Jensen’s knew her.”
“Melanie,” the doctor said, stroking her hair. “You’re
going to be fine. “I’m Doctor Langston. We’re going to
take good care of you,” he said as he lifted the other
eyelid. “Is there someone we can call?”
She rolled her head side to side. The effects of the
sedative were making everything around happen very slowly,
yet so quickly she could barely keep track of what had just
occurred. The last thing she remembered was the bright
penlight in her eye.
Kathryn awoke in the private room. The brightness of
the walls under the florescent light stung her sleepy eyes.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 3
She rubbed the crust from the corners as a nurse walked in.
“Well, look who’s awake,” the nurse said cheerily.
“How are you feeling?” She was a slim faced brunette with
big hips, and said her name was Suzy, with an ‘y.’
“Okay, I guess,” Kathryn said. “Where am I?”
“The T. Edgar Williams Clinic just outside of
Brooksville,” she said with a flair of pride. “I hear
you’re not from around here, Melanie.”
She had to think twice about her new alias. “No,” she
said. “I’m just passing through.”
“You caused quite an episode at Jensen’s. I don’t
think he’s had that much excitement since his paint shaker
exploded, spraying Chemise Coral all over his wallpaper
display. He calls it Chemise Coral, but everyone else calls
it pink. I guess Mr. Jensen just don’t think it’s right to
have a pink hardware store, ‘cause he yells every time
someone calls it pink.” She shook her head as if in
disbelief. “Now that was something. I wasn’t there, but I
heard. Everybody heard.”
“Must’ve been pretty exciting,” Kathryn said as she
looked around the room for her daypack. She was feeling
much better. The effects of the drugs had subsided. “Have
you seen my bag?”
“Sure. It’s in the locker. Want me to get it?”
“Get what?” A woman said, her tobacco-taxed voice
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 4
coming from behind Suzy. Kathryn remembered the voice. It
was a voice she’d tried, but could never forget.
Suzy’s eyes grew wide, and Kathryn couldn’t tell if she
was feigning fear or truly scared.
“Her daypack,” Suzy said, her voice trembling.
“It’s in the locker,” the Mothersole rasped in a
lifelong smoker’s voice. “Go get it.” As Mothersole got
closer, Kathryn could smell the mix of nicotine, burnt
tobacco and rubbing alcohol on her. Her face was fat and
wrinkled, and her eyes were permanently squinted. Her hair
was dark gray and wiry like tangible smoke. “Been here
before?” she asked. It wasn’t a friendly question. “You
“No. Just passing through,” Kathryn replied.
“To where?” Mothersole asked.
Kathryn was about to answer when Suzy burst through the
door holding the forest green daypack and Kathryn’s clothes.
“Here you go. Everything’s accounted for.”
“You searched my pack?” Kathryn said indignantly. She
knew they would. It was procedure. But she had to act
“Melanie,” Nurse Mothersole began, talking to her as if
she were a four year old. “Sometimes people come to
hospitals after they’ve tried to hurt themselves. We must
make sure that they can’t do that in here. Can you
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 5
“Yes, Nurse Mothersole,” Kathryn said obediently and
shifted her eyes to the window. “If it’s okay, I’d like to
be alone now.” The window faced west, and the long shadows
approached her as the sun came to rest for the evening.
She gave them five minutes to think of a reason to
return, then hopped out of bed and checked the corridor.
Empty. She grabbed a note pad from her pack, gathered
the ATM receipts from her wallet, and spread them on the bed
in front of her, arranging them in chronological order.
They were all from the First Bank of Tennessee in Nashville.
She took the first number from the account balance and wrote
it down. From the second receipt, she wrote down the second
number from that account balance, and so on with the rest.
She continued writing the numbers that corresponded
with the balances until she ran out of receipts. When she
was through, she had a series of number groups--the first
with four numbers, the second with six numbers, the third
with four numbers and the fourth with five. The computer
password didn’t need to be written down. That, she had
memorized. Kathryn wadded the receipts and stuffed them
into her pack, then wedged the notepaper into her panties
for safe keeping.
When midnight came, and the hospital was asleep,
Kathryn dressed and peeked out the door. The hall was dimly
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 6
lit with no one in sight. Her soft-sole shoes squeaked upon
the polished gray tile as she crept down the hall, counting
the rooms, looking for the one she stayed in five years ago.
The overwhelming stench of urine pulsed as she passed by
each room, and she wondered what other kind of experiments
were being conducted at the clinic.
Except for her noisy shoes, the rest of the clinic was
silent. No snoring, no screaming, no babies crying. No
code blues, and no crash carts. She modified her gait just
enough for the shoes to stop squeaking, making her as quiet
as the rest of the patients.
The door to her old room was closed. She timidly
approached and wondered if it was still a birthing room. If
so, she had to warn the mother. She tried the door, but it
was locked. Kathryn pressed an ear against the steel door
to listen for any sounds of life.
She never heard the latch. She never heard the door
open, but suddenly in the doorway, an old man with pale
blue-gray skin, yellow teeth surrounded by crackled purple
lips, and red sagging eyes stood before her holding a crying
baby. The baby screamed for his mother--screamed for
Kathryn bolted from the door, her shoes chirping on the
smooth tile. She looked back down the hall. The man was
gone, and the door was closed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 7
She was leaning against the wall praying her heart
wasn’t beating as loudly as it sounded when a door across
the hall opened, and a doctor stepped out. Kathryn ducked
into the nearest room, and watched as he passed by and into
* * *
Dr. Langston saw Rick and Ray in the break room and was
thankful he would have some company other than Nurse
Mothersole tonight. These guys weren’t the brightest, but
at least they could carry on a conversation and didn’t smoke
5 packs a day. The AM radio was on as he walked in, and
some blowhard was rambling on about black helicopters.
"I can't believe you two listen to that guy," the
doctor said. He cracked open a small bottle of inexpensive
spring water. "He’s one of those anti-government wackos,
preaching the gospel and proliferating militias."
"He don't preach much gospel, Doc," Rick said. "He
just references it a lot.”
“What’s the difference?” Langston said and took a sip
from his water. “What’s he yapping about today? How the
FBI has murdered a bunch of women and children? How the
government can control the weather?" He sat in one of the
orange plastic chairs, putting his legs up on another chair.
"This guy is worse than any daytime TV talk show host.”
“Bullshit. This guy knows what’s going on. He’s ex-
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 8
special forces,” Ray said. “He used to work for the CIA.
You know how they get their recruits, Doc? They kidnap
women from Russia, impregnate them with frozen sperm from
dead American spies, and then the mother’s give up the kids
“Why Russian women?” Langston asked. “Why not
“You may know a lot about medicine, Doc,” Rick said.
“But you don’t know shit about the real world.”
“Geeze, Doc.” Ray said. “Do we have to draw you a
friggin’ picture? They use Russian women so the baby’s know
how to speak Russian.” He sipped his coffee, looked to hid
buddy Rick and chided, “How many years of college to be a
Dr. Langston laughed. “I can see it now. Welcome to
the CIA Academy,” he began. “First we’re going to learn
about counter-terrorist driving, then infiltrating a foreign
government’s embassy, and finish up with interrogation
techniques guaranteed to make ‘em sing. Then, when were all
done, we’ll have graham crackers and milk, and take a nap on
the mats. If you have to go potty, just raise your hand.”
The doctor turned off the radio and flipped on the TV.
“Now, let’s deal with some real key issues,” he said as
he switched to Nickelodeon. “Let’s see what’s Spongebob’s
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 9
“Uh, we gotta go, Doc,” Ray said standing up suddenly.
“Got a lot of work to do.” Rick said and stood, gathering
“You guys can’t go. You can’t leave me here with that
fucking gargoyle. It’s bad enough to work with Nurse
Motherlode during the day. But at night? It scares the
shit out of me.”
“Uh, Doc,” Ray said, nodding, as if trying to get him
“What?” Langston asked, and turned around. Mothersole
stood in the doorway, her girth filling the entire jamb.
“Don’t go anywhere yet, boys,” Mothersole ordered. She
lit a Lucky Strike, inhaled the first hit and held the smoke
in her lungs for at least ten seconds. “I’ve got a couple
of questions about our newest guest.”
“We’ve already told you everything, Nurse Mothersole,”
Ray said. “It’s almost midnight and we still got a ton of
work to do.”
“Let ’em go,” Langston said. “What else can they add?
They’ve had a tough day.”
“You keep out of this,” she said. “Two weeks on the
job earns you no rights with me, Langston.”
The doctor slammed his water down and stood. “This is
bullshit, Mothersole. You need to realize that I’m the
goddamn doctor and you’re the goddamn nurse.” He stormed
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 10
from the break room and down the hall.
* * *
Through the big break room window, Kathryn could see
the nurse and the EMTs talking. She got down on all fours
and crawled quickly under the window. At the corner of the
hallway, she stood and darted the last twenty feet to the
offices. It all seemed too easy.
The first door was secured by a Cypher-Lock. Kathryn
took out the paper with the numbers and punched in the first
four numbers. The door clicked open. Inside, she moved
through two dark offices. At the rear of the second one was
a utility closet with another Cypher-Lock. She punched in
the second series of numbers, and the lock clicked open.
The inside of the closet was a black, cement-
reinforced, steel file cabinet. A long steel rod barred the
drawers closed. For some reason she always thought that top
secret files should have been kept in a more glamorous
The first combination worked fine, as did the second.
Everything was going smoothly. She removed the bar,
delicately resting it against the wall and opened the top
drawer. Flipping through the files, she took those marked
OPPRO and stuffed them into her daypack. She replaced the
bar and secured the cabinet. It was just too easy, and she
was getting the feeling something was dangerously wrong.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 11
But she couldn’t let the uneasiness stop her.
Outside the utility room, Kathryn sat at the big steel
desk and flipped on the computer. Blank disks were in the
lower left-hand drawer, right where they were supposed to
be. When the computer asked for her password, she typed it
in, and a list of files appeared. She loaded a blank disk
into the A drive.
* * *
Nurse Mothersole was finished with the lazy-ass EMTs,
and that punk-ass doctor, so she strode to the nurses
station, leaving a waft of aromatic smoke in the air masking
that damn urine smell she had never gotten used to. She
knew she had seen the new girl before and wanted to do a
little checking up on her.
She settled into the worthless chair. It was the third
one she had gone through in a year. The pieces of crap
barely lasted three months before they fell apart. She had
overheard the guys joking about her weight causing the
chairs to break, but she knew it’s because the goddamn
Chinese made them. She fired up the computer and another
Mothersole entered her password LSMFT and waited. Then
just as she was about to get into the system, the computer
responded, “PASSWORD IN USE. ACCESS DENIED.”
“Bullshit,” she said to the lousy Japanese computer and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 12
tried again. And again, she got the same message.
“Goddamnit!” she said and pushed herself up from the chair
and moved like lightening down the hall.
* * *
Kathryn slid the last disk into the computer, and
continued the downloading. Two minutes more and she would
be out of there.
While the system released the classified information
onto her disk, she memorized the last five digit code. She
didn’t want to be stopped at the door, holding the code in
one hand while trying to open the Cypher-Lock with the
When the disk was full and all the information had been
copied, she put the disk in the pack with the others, and
logged off the computer. She stood, ready to go and saw
Nurse Mothersole waddle by the big window.
Kathryn slipped to a small alcove, between a file
cabinet and the wall. She noticed an umbrella was standing
in the corner as she heard the metallic click of the door
unlocking. Kathryn had the umbrella opened and was crouched
behind it just as the door opened, spilling light into the
dark room. Her heart pounded again, and she knew she was
caught. She was going to die. There was no way they would
let her live.
She prayed. She prayed hard behind the big umbrella.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 13
She prayed for her son.
The door opened and Mothersole walked in. “Come on
out, Melanie, or whatever the hell your real name is.”
Kathryn could smell the woman’s tobacco stench from
across the room.
“You’re in over your head,” Mothersole said in her
cancer voice. “I know I’ve seen you. It’s only a matter of
time before I figure out who you are.” Kathryn hoped that
the umbrella wasn’t trembling along the rest of her.
“Even if you escape tonight, these people will track
you down like a like a dog.” Mothersole moved slowly
through the room toward the desk, still trying to catch her
breath. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you hiding under the desk
is so damn predictable?” she said as she stepped behind it,
as if hoping to surprise her quarry. When she bent for a
closer look under the desk, Kathryn repositioned herself.
“Maybe you’re not so predictable.” Mothersole looked
around the dark room, then flicked the desk lamp on. The
open umbrella caught her eye, and she took a shiny letter
opener from the desk and slowly approached the umbrella.
With two steps to go, the big nurse quickened her pace the
way place kickers do, and sent the umbrella skyward.
Kathryn charged from the woman’s side while the nurse
was off balance, trying to recover from her kick. She
slammed into the nurse, pushing her to the floor, then
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 14
jumped over Mothersole and rushed through the offices to the
She fumbled with the lock, but had the door open and
was halfway out when she felt the tip of the letter opener
go into her back. She arched out of reflex, and felt the
burn as the tip scraped down her back through the first
three layers of skin. The opener caught on her leather
belt, causing her to loose her balance, and Kathryn fell to
Mothersole clambered on top and backhanded Kathryn’s
face, her ring leaving a small gash on the right cheek.
With her hands pinned under the weight, Kathryn was
helpless. Nurse Mothersole raised the letter opener above
her head with a bead on Kathryn’s heart.
The nurse’s arm came down hard just as Dr. Langston
dove into her, knocking her off Kathryn. Kathryn stretched
for her daypack as the doctor and Mothersole wrestled on the
ground, vying for control of the letter opener. A security
guard drawing his weapon brushed by her as she ran out the
door. Seconds later a shot sounded inside the building.
She turned for one last look at the distant lights of the T.
Edgar Williams clinic.
Jonas had told her it was going to be dangerous, and
that there was a good chance she wouldn’t escape. But Jonas
had also said, stealing the files would be the most
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 15
challenging aspect of the mission, and if Kathryn did
survive, the rest would be a milk run.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 16
Cooper Sumner turned in his oversized bed and felt for
the velvet skin of Gabrielle. But as his hand searched the
cotton sheets, he came out of his sleep and his eyes opened
to the empty side of the bed and the untouched pillow. His
heart came to the realization she was never coming back. He
was alone again.
Coop slipped on his bathing suit, shuffled down the oak
staircase and across the cold tile floors to the brushed
aluminum kitchen. Mr. Coffee, alone on the counter, had a
full pot of Community Dark Roast ready for him. He looked
around at the empty house and gave a cheery “Good morning,”
mocking the bleak mood that blanketed him. “Good morning,”
came his sharp echo. Except for a leather club chair, a
small table next to it, and a stereo, the downstairs was
bare. A new TV, still in its box, sat on the hardwood floor
next to the Sony stereo. Gabrielle had been after him to
buy more furniture. As a surprise Coop was planning to
furnish the entire place as a wedding present to her. In
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 17
the meantime, he had bought a TV because Gabrielle liked to
He scrounged unsuccessfully for something to eat and
took his mug outside to the crisp spring air. There was
more furniture on his expansive deck than in the house. Two
teak chaise lounges and a matching table were faced toward
the sunsets, an umbrella table was nestled in the deck’s
southeast corner giving Coop an unobstructed view of the
sunrise as he had his coffee and paper. Tucked in the
corners were a pair of Bose 151s to carry the music outside.
On sunny days he preferred Jimmy Buffett; starry nights
called for classical. This morning though, he preferred the
quiet sounds of the beach.
Overnight the storm had moved into the gulf, the north
winds flattening the water for miles. In the distance, the
strong winds built the seas giving the horizon the choppy
and blurred appearance of a jagged-edged, small, flat world.
The sun had been up for a while and was beginning to light
the pale green shallow waters of the gulf. A pod of
dolphins surfaced, their backs glistening momentarily in the
morning light, only to submerge again. Coop pulled a chair
from the table and faced the sun, stared into his black
coffee and wondered where today would take him.
Until a two years ago, Coop’s life had always been
planned. He always knew where he was supposed to be and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 18
what he was supposed to be doing. But retirement meant
personal freedom. And personal freedom was something Coop
never had. He had spent the last fifteen years on missions
in Russia, Afghanistan, Libya and several other hostile
countries doing odd jobs for the CIA, NSA, ISA, and a few
other agencies he still can’t mention. His whole life, it
seemed, he had a mission, a duty, a reason why he existed.
This past year his mission had been Gabrielle.
As a child, Coop’s mother had abandoned him, leaving
him on the steps of a rural Ohio orphanage. He grew up
there along with fifty two other boys, and together they
faced the rigors and discipline of living in an
institutional environment. Before leaving the home at
eighteen, he was accepted into the Naval Academy where,
during his plebe year, when his class mates were struggling
with the regimented life, it was almost a vacation for Coop
compared to life at the orphanage.
Coop took a sip of coffee and looked back at his house.
He didn’t own too many material items. But what he did own
he loved. The Mediterranean style home was more than he
needed, but when he retired he figured he deserved the
luxury of a five-thousand square foot gulf front home. It,
along with his Hummer and his Harley, were paid for. Coop
owed no one.
His alimony, the money given to agents while living
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 19
black--working undercover, usually ranged from six to seven
figures depending on length of assignment and probability of
return. The more the alimony, the less chance he would be
around to collect it. And historically, when men came back
enough times to retire, usually around age thirty five, they
blew their money in few short years trying to make up for
all the lost time. Not Coop, however.
Coop had always looked for the biggest price tag and
always returned. Some say he was blessed—that he had an
angel looking down, protecting him. He never lost a partner
and never left anyone behind. He’d had taken seven rounds
going back for teammates over the years. Two landed in his
left buttock spaced just enough apart that when he lay on
his right side, from the back, Gabrielle had said it looked
like a smiley face. On a botched mission in west Africa he
ran some FNG who had taken one in the jugular over nine
miles to the LZ. Coop had worked too hard for his money and
he wasn’t about to blow it.
Suddenly next door the undeniable voice of Richard
Simmons came on over the speakers, bringing Coop out of his
thoughts. Outside the opulent hot pink house, Dick Velour,
the overweight, fifty year old, self-ordained Cash King and
Investment Guru was on his deck Sweating to the Oldies in a
black Speedo. A bloody mary and a brimming ashtray were
well within reach of his hairy arms. Coop waved out of
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 20
neighborly politeness when their eyes met, but offered no
further encouragement. Velour enjoyed talking about his
“Morning Coop,” Velour called, raising his glass in a
“Good form,” Coop said, trying to hide a smile.
“This stuff really helps. I swear I’m more focused now
than ever,” he said and took a long sip. “I made forty-five
big ones yesterday.” He set the drink down and reached for
his cigarette. “You should let me handle some of your
inheritance. I could do the same for you.”
Coop had no inheritance. But it was the best way to
explain his money. “I think I’ll keep mine just where it
is. My CDs are raking in about four percent, Dick. I can’t
He also had no CDs. His money was kept in the Grand
Cayman branch of Coutts, under Sumner, LTD.. There, monies
accumulated tax free and stocks were sold with no capital
gains penalties. Not quite within the tax code, but the
Treasury Secretary signed off on this one personally. Over
the years, Coop had called his own shots and the portfolios
been growing at respectable rate. Every month a small check
was deposited into a local bank to cover his meager living
expenses. For traveling and major purchases, he held a
Coutts Visa Gold card. CDs and savings bonds, however, were
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 21
the two topics guaranteed to piss off Velour and shut him
“CDs?” Velour said, exaggerating a laugh so he could
be heard over Richard Simmons. “If you ever find a set of
balls, let me know. I’ll make you some real money.”
He smiled, wishing he had done background checks on his
neighbors before moving in. If he had known about Velour,
he might have chosen another beach. Maybe another state.
“Thanks,” he said and waved him off.
Coop was almost inside when Velour yelled, “How did it
go with Gabrielle?”
He turned to respond, wondering how the hell he knew.
“A beautiful girl like that? You didn’t ask her?”
Velour shook his head as if disgusted. “A set of balls,
son. A set of big brass ones. That’s what you need.”
The phone rang rescuing Coop from Velour. He darted
to the counter hoping it would be someone it wasn’t.
“Coop? It’s Dan,” the man said. “Go secure.”
Coop hung up and walked upstairs to his office where
the secured line was kept. The phone rang as soon entered
the room. “Hey, pal,” Coop said. “Long time no hear.”
Coop looked out the front window. The Donahues across the
street were still not back from their vacation and the
papers were collecting in the driveway. A Ford sedan with
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 22
smoked windows and distinctive red Missouri plates and
passed in front. Dr. Chang, the beautiful young internist,
bent over for her paper. “How’s things in D.C.?” Coop
“I’m working too damn much. I wish I could sit around
and let my mind wander like you.”
“What’re you talking about,” Coop protested. “I work.”
“Bullshit,” Dan said. “I’ve seen will-work-for-food
guys exert more energy than you.”
“Look,” Coop said, “Until you’ve walked a mile in my
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look, I called for two reasons.
First, how did it go with Gabrielle? She say yes?”
“Never got around to asking her.” And he left it
“No details?” Dan asked, as if he were disappointed.
“Let’s just say we had a compatibility problem.”
“Sorry to hear that,” he said. “But don’t give up,
Coop. One day you’ll meet the right woman,” Dan said.
“You’ll fall in love, get married and have kids. She’ll
screw around on you. Then you’ll have a nasty divorce and
spend the rest of your life paying alimony and cursing the
day you met her. So, hang in there, man.”
Special Agent Dan Banister had been in the field for
ten years and had taken a hit in the chest. The wound and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 23
the subsequent surgery caused a horrible, phlegm producing
cough and cost Banister half a lung. He had the option to
retire or to stay on with a desk job. He chose to work.
Banister’s main job was to line up small, easy assignments
for former agents of the different organizations. Since
Coop had worked for all the agencies for one project or
another, Dan still kept in touch, giving Coop the chance to
make money. Coop usually turned them down.
“How’s your Chinese?”
“Phenomenal,” he said staring at Dr. Chang sitting on
her deck drinking coffee. She was wearing a bikini top and
denim shorts. A Mediacom truck was a few houses down, but
no workers could be seen.
“Glad to hear it. I’ve got a job for you.”
“Not interested,” Coop said.
“It’s a milk run, Coop. You’ll be in Beijing a week.
A month, tops.”
“Pays a hundred thou.”
“I’m busy that week.” Outside, Dr. Chang was gone.
The Donahues pulled in the driveway, tires bouncing over the
papers. And the Missouri Sedan stopped briefly next to the
Mediacom truck. Dr. Chang walked back outside, sipping what
looked like a now full cup of coffee. “Thanks for thinking
of me, but I’m retired.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 24
“How retired can you be if you still have a phone
“Old habits die hard,” Coop said. He had no idea why
he kept the scrambler. Other than the money, the scrambler
was the only material connection between his present life
and his past.
“If you change your mind, let me know? By the way,
how’s the book coming?”
“I haven’t started it yet, but I think today’s the
“Maybe it’s time to take that goddamn monster of a bike
you have and hit the road for a month. Go write that book
you’ve been yapping about. Quit talking about it and start
doing it. Didn’t Hemingway say something about that?”
Coop sensed something was wrong. Dan was not a big fan
of small talk, but today he was asking too many questions.
“What’s up, Dan? Why all the questions? What’s going on?”
“Nothing, Coop. Just checking on you. It’s part of my
job, you know.”
“Thanks for checking, but I’m fine.”
“Call me if you need me,” Dan said.
An hour later he was swimming in the gulf. The
beginning of spring was his favorite time of the year on the
coast. No tourists and hardly anyone from town. Only a
handful of spring breakers, dry north winds and clear blue
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 25
skies. As he swam, his arms moved from the cold water to
the warm sun and back again. His goggles kept an eye out
for the sand shark or stray hammerhead on the bottom. He
swam south towards the Yucatan Peninsula five hundred miles
away trying to get in as much distance as possible.
Coop switched to the breaststroke and estimated the
distance to be about one mile. He made his slow turn toward
home. In the distance he could see his house amidst the
white glare from the beach.
* * *
As dusk approached, Coop was shoveling sand and
wrestling palm trees into their new homes when Dr. Chang’s
boyfriend, a pretentious anesthesiologist pulled up in his
Jag and laid on the horn. Coop watched as she walked down
the wide wooden steps of her house. She was wearing a red
gown so thin and breezy, a strong wind could have blown it
off her. He stopped working, leaned on his shovel and while
taking off his work gloves, said in perfect Mandarin
Chinese, “You look lovely tonight, Doctor. I hope your
date appreciates beauty as much as he appreciates
intelligence.” It was the first time he had spoken to her
and as soon as he said it, he wished he hadn’t. Cooper
Sumner, retired CIA turned Creepy Stalker.
She stopped on the last step and look at him as if
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 26
surprised at his mastery of her native language. “Thank
you,” she replied in her tongue. “And you look dirty. I
hope your date appreciates fertile soil as much as she
appreciates men with such good taste.”
Coop smiled and went back to work, wondering what the
hell the guy in the Jag thought was more important than
helping Dr. Chang into the car.
After a quick shower, Coop put on a pair of shorts and
a light sweatshirt and pedaled his Cannondale mountain bike
through the cool evening air to Spot’s. The orange clouds
were glowing in the aftermath of the sunset as Coop locked
his bike amongst the rusted cruisers and ten speeds in the
wooden rack outside Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side
Watering Hole. He walked across the sandy sidewalk, past
beach strolling couples holding hands, toward the reggae
music coming from the bar. It hadn’t even been twenty four
hours since he and Gabrielle walked the beach. If he had
realized it was going to be their last time, he may have
enjoyed it a little more.
Lazy Day was playing to a full crowd, and Spot’s
fiancée, Anna, was behind the bar. She saw Coop come in and
asked one of the other girls to cover for her.
“Hey, handsome. Buy you a beer?” She handed him a Dos
Coop straddled a bar stool, grabbed a napkin and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 27
wrapped it around the beer. The place was half filled with
the college crowd spending another wasted night of spring
The ceiling fans spun slowly, mingling the humid gulf
coast air with the semi-sweet redolent combination of suntan
lotion, sweat, perfume, and stale beer.
“Thanks, Anna.” He took a sip. The first beer of the
day always had a special taste to it. “Spot around?”
“He’ll be here later. He is flying. He must have so
many hours.” She scooped him a bowl of peanuts. “Why
didn’t you become a pilot?”
“I guess it wasn’t chosen for me.” He looked around
the bar for any familiar faces. “I know a little about it,”
he said. “It’s the landings I always have trouble with.”
“What did you do in the Navy? Spot never told me.”
“I worked at the Pentagon.” It’s what he told
“Did you meet Wolfe Blitzer?” She asked with the
genuine eagerness of a child asking someone who had been to
Disney World if they had met Mickey Mouse. In many ways she
was still like a child. With her inquisitive nature, her
enthusiasm for the routine, and her ability, through a
vulnerable trust, to make anyone feel as comfortable as if
they had known her forever.
A twenty seven year old student from Hungary, having
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 28
been in the U.S. for only six months, Anna seemed
continuously amazed at everything she saw. Things that
Americans take for granted: grocery stores, fast food, The
Gap. Spot said she had once spent two hours at the
Everything’s a Dollar store trying on big sunglasses,
looking at the toys, and reading the books. Being with her
was like reliving first experiences as a child, and at the
same time, as an adult.
She was not attractive by traditional standards, but
Anna possessed a continually emerging beauty. The more she
said, the more she was around, the more beautiful she
became. It was an appealing quality and it was easy to
understand why Spot had fallen for her and proposed after
only a few months.
“Well?” she prodded.
“No,” Coop said. “I haven’t met Wolfe Blitzer.”
“Too bad. He is one very sexy American.”
“If I see him I’ll tell him you said so.”
“No. Please don’t. Spot might be mad.”
“I didn’t think he ever got mad.”
“He doesn’t. I just don’t want to test him.” She
reached below the bar for a handful of saltines and wedged
them into the basket. “So Coop, how did it go with
Gabrielle? Are we going to have a double wedding?”
Coop lowered his head, looking into the bottle of Dos
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 29
Equis, not wanting to answer.
“Coop?” Anna tried.
When Coop looked up again ready to talk, Anna’s
attention had moved on. Her eyes were alight and a big-
tooth smile graced her face. “Spot!”
Coop felt a friendly hand on his back.
“How are my two favorite people in the world?” Spot
asked as he slipped behind the bar for a few of Anna’s
kisses. Gabrielle never kissed Coop that way. It was
always quick pecks. He didn’t mind, though. He was simply
thankful to have her--to finally have someone.
“How’d it go, fly-boy?” Coop asked.
“Same old shit,” Spot said, pouring himself a beer.
“Take her up. Log it down. Maintain proficiency.” Spot
had been Coop’s roommate for four years at the academy and a
right tackle for the Midshipmen. The solid, two-hundred-
ninety pounder had the opportunity to go pro, but instead,
kept his commitment to the Navy. It turned out he liked
flying a hell of a lot more than football. His dream was to
fly fighters, but was too big to fit into the cockpit so he
had to settle for CH-54s. He turned to the bar, set his
beer down and reached another cold one for Coop.
“How’s the house coming?” Coop asked.
“Fucking hurricanes,” he said. “Hurricanes and
contractors. You never know when they’re going to show up.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 30
He raised his glass and emptied the entire beer into his
mouth. “There’s no telling when the house is going to be
done. Probably another month or so. The place is so damn
dusty, I can’t stand it.” He turned to the beer tap and
filled his glass.
“I must get back to work,” Anna said, as if wanting to
dodge a sensitive topic. She tied the apron around her thin
waist. “Sleeping with boss only gets you so far,” she said
and gathered a few glasses, then headed to the kitchen.
“Any luck with moving in with Anna?” Coop asked after
she moved out of range.
“No. She’s pretty damn adamant against cohabitation.
She says her mother would roll over in her grave. She says
it makes things too comfortable. So you always wonder if
you are in love with the person or in love with the
“She’s got a point.” Coop tipped his beer to his lips.
“It’s just the whole marriage thing again, Coop. Know
what I mean? I was hoping if I move in with her, she won’t
want to get married so fast.”
Spot had spent most of his Navy years in Pensacola.
First going through flight training, then later returning as
an instructor. And in his fifteen years of active duty, the
only time he saw Coop was one night while he was on alert
off the coast of North Africa.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 31
Spot’s number had come up to drop two Russians Mafia
types into the water twelve miles north of the Libyan coast.
The two had been intercepted flying a cargo plane full of
weapons and forced to land at a covert airstrip north of
Athens. Eventually, after days of continuous interrogation,
as the CIA called it, the two broke, giving up the
information the CIA needed to temporarily neutralize a
particularly violent Libyan terrorist group.
In return for their information, the Russians were
promised passage close to their original destination. It
was the CIA’s call: They were to be dropped in the water
twelve miles from shore in a shipping lane. Their cover
story would be that their plane had gone down and they spent
three days in the water. Their bruises were sustained in
It was midnight when Spot landed at the airstrip only
long enough for the spooks to load the Russians into the
helicopter. As he flew over the Mediterranean, he looked
back several times to check on his passengers. He had a
clear view of the short one who kept yelling something in
Russian. The tall one was harder to see in the low light.
He only saw the hands, resting on the knees, protruding from
Hovering forty feet over the drop zone, with all lights
extinguished except for the green jump light over the open
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 32
hatch, the prisoners were ushered to the door. The short
one was still screaming, fighting the marine guards, knowing
he would die. After a quick struggle, they tossed him out
of the hatch.
The other Russian stood squarely in the doorway like a
diver on the high platform concentrating, focusing. Spot
watched as this high ranking member of the Russian Mafia,
turned to face him, gave him the thumbs-up, then leaped into
the sea. It was a face Spot had seen almost every day for
four years, then not again until that dark night twelve
miles from Libya.
Spot fought every urge to lower the loop and pick up
his best friend. But he knew that whatever Coop was doing,
it must’ve been right.
A few years later Spot returned to Pensacola and with
less than a year left to serve, it came time to renew his
contract with the Navy, Spot couldn’t decide what to do.
His wife had run off with the plumber, and the divorce
cleaned him out. But since he had been married to her for
so long, she was entitled to half of his retirement. And,
right or wrong, he wasn’t going to let that happen. But the
airlines weren’t hiring, and the Navy was cutting back on
flight time. There was no viable option.
The solution came to him on a ten beer night at the
Flora-Bama when he purchased a Fantasy Five lotto ticket.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 33
He bought it from the window just inside the back stage at
9:28, and by 9:59, Lt. Preston “Spot” Matthews, was worth
The following Monday he drove to Tallahassee and
collected his money. On Tuesday, he made an offer on a run-
down beach bar. On Wednesday, he took an early out from the
Navy. Seven months later, after spending all of his free
time working on the bar, Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side
Watering Hole opened for business. The place was a hit with
the military, civilians, and tourists alike. It had even
survived back to back hurricanes. Everything was going well
for Spot. Everything except the pressure Anna was putting
on him to get married.
“But enough about me,” Spot said. “What’d Gabrielle
Coop lingered for a moment, his hand fighting to stay
wrapped around the comfort of the cold beer. But he
succumbed and reached into his pocket and placed a small
velvet case on the bar.
Spot looked at the case, then to Coop. “What the hell?
She said no?” He asked as if he didn’t believe it. “I
don’t believe it,” he said.
“Believe it,” Coop said.
“How could she? You’re rich, you’re handsome--even if
you are missing a part of your ear.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 34
Coop subconsciously felt for the missing lobe of his
right ear that had been bitten off by an angry Afghan.
“Hell, you’re my best friend!” Spot continued. “What
kind of woman could say no?” Spot slammed his open palm on
the bar. “Hey,” he said with a smile and a wink, “Maybe she
likes girls,” then laughed as if it was some kind of
terribly funny joke.
Coop didn’t laugh. He just nodded. He was still
having trouble with the idea and didn’t really want to talk
“Bullshit,” Spot said in amazement.
“No shit,” Coop replied. “I found her with the
waitress from The Oasis.”
“A lesbo, huh?”
“Don’t call her that,” Coop said. “It’s something
she’s been struggling with,” Coop said.
Spot stepped away from the bar and crossed his arms.
“I’d be pissed.”
“About what?” Coop said.
“That she didn’t tell you sooner,” Spot said. “Maybe
she would have let you watch or something.”
“You think this is fucking funny, Spot? Jesus, man, I
“She did wear a lot of flannel shirts.”
“Thinking back, I can almost put the pieces together,”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 35
Coop said. “I should have seen it coming.”
Spot poured himself a draft, dumping off the last inch
of foam. “Did you even get a chance to show her the ring?”
“No,” Coop said. “She never saw it.
“That sucks, man. I’m sorry.”
“Never again, Spot,” he said and pounded the bar for
emphasis. “Never again. I’m swearing off women.”
“Giving them up for good?” Spot asked, as he got his
friend another beer. “That’s kinda hard, Coop. Sounds so
final.” He nodded toward a group of LSU girls playing
quarters. “How could give up something like that?”
Coop wrapped a napkin around the beer to keep it cold.
“Easy,” he said. “I never learned much about relationships.
I know about women, but I don’t know shit about
relationships.” He sipped the beer, letting out a small
belch. “You’ve been married before, you know all about that
“Lot of good it did me. Ask my fucking plumber how
good I am at relationships. He’ll tell you how great I
Coop sat on the stool watching the girls roll quarters
off their noses, bouncing it into the glass. He
inadvertently made eye contact with the blonde and
immediately looked away. “It’s not that I have anything
against lesbians,” Coop picked up again. “It’s just that I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 36
don’t think they make the best wives.”
“Who knew?” Spot said, shrugging, sipping his beer.
“It could have happened to anybody.”
“She never did like to kiss me,” he said. “I always
“And could she beat the shit out of you in racquet
ball,” Spot said. He pulled Coop another beer from the
cooler. “What now?” Spot asked.
“Relax, hang out here and drink your beer.” He took a
long draw of the cold beer and set the bottle on the napkin.
“How are your wedding plans coming?”
“I’m so fucking confused,” Spot said. “On one hand I
want to spend the rest of my life with her. On the other
hand, I don’t want to get screwed again.”
“You think she’d do that?”
“I don’t know,” Spot said with a slight shrug. “You
“Did you ever get her an engagement ring?” Coop knew
he hadn’t, but he wanted to be sure.
“Not yet,” Spot said, turning to pour a beer for a
customer. “You know with my house being worked on from the
hurricanes, it’s costing more than insurance is willing to
pay. I told Anna I’d get her one as soon as I could.”
Coop pushed the box to Spot. “Then consider this my
wedding gift,” he said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 37
Spot stared at the box so long, the beer he was pouring
spilled over. He flipped the tap off. “There’s no way,
Coop. I can’t.”
“Take it,” Coop insisted.
“I can’t,” Spot said. “It’s too much.”
“Hell, it’s just going to sit in a drawer,” Coop said.
“Take it. Unless you don’t think Anna will like it.”
“Are you shitting me? A full three carats? She’ll
“Then it’s our secret,” Coop said. “She doesn’t have a
need to know.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say I get free beer,” Coop said.
“You get free beer,” Spot replied and slipped the box
in his pocket.
Coop’s eyes fell back into his bottle, staring at the
small bubbles. Giving Spot the ring was the final act of
acceptance. Gabrielle was never coming back.
Spot reached over the bar and put a wide hand on his
buddy’s shoulder. “Cheer up, Coop. There’ll be others.”
Coop looked up. “Not for me,” he said. “Never again.”
“We’ll see,” Spot said. “A few more beers and you’ll
be over at the LSU table bouncing quarters into a glass,
deciding which ones you’ll take back to that fucking mansion
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 38
Coop laughed. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve got
an early day tomorrow.”
“What’s going on?”
“Distance,” Coop said, pushing his empty bottle away,
ready for another. “I’ve decided to take a little road
“Like that?” Spot asked.
“Like that,” Coop said. “But I need your help. I need
you to stay in my house and take care of things.”
Spot nodded as if he understood. “Your cat.”
“It’s not my cat,” Coop said.
“You feed it, don’t you?”
“I sleeps at your house, doesn’t it?”
“Then it’s your cat,” Spot said.
“It’s not my cat!”
“Regardless,” Spot said. “This is going to take some
thought.” He stroked his chin as he considered his choices.
“I can sleep amidst the thick dust of reconstruction in a
small, though very cozy home, or vacation at a palatial,
however, sparsely furnished, gulf front estate. Hmm.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 39
That’s a tough one.”
“I have the cable hooked up,” Coop said.
“HBO?” Spot asked.
“I don’t know,” Spot said. “I usually like to stay in
homes with furniture, but if you throw in the keys to the
Hummer, you’ve got a deal.”
Coop held up his glass for a toast. “You can move in
tomorrow. I should be gone by noon. Come over early and
I’ll give you the keys and the security code.”
“I’ll be there.”
The blonde LSU student, the one with the small nose and
huge brown eyes, approached Coop. He could smell her
perfume before she was near enough to speak.
“Excuse me,” she said in a southern accent, drawing it
out for almost eight syllables. “Do you have an extra
quarter. I missed the glass and it rolled off the table.
We can’t find it, and it was our last one.”
Coop looked over her head to the table and all the eyes
turned away. The conspiratorial smiles, however, remained
in tact. Before he could answer, Spot dug one out of his
pocket and gave it to her.
“Thanks,” she said and flashed him a fake smile. Her
brown eyes fell back on Coop. “You know how to play
quarters?” she said taking thirteen syllables to say it.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 40
“Whyn’t you join us?”
“I don’t think so,” Coop said, and turned back to Spot,
effectively dismissing her. A woman was the last thing he
She walked away exaggerating her swing just a bit as if
she thought Coop would watch, and she was right.
“Can I have a quarter please, mister,” a tiny voice
said. “My daddy won’t give me anymore.” The softness of
her voice contrasted with her harsh Hungarian accent.
Cooper turned, and Anna was standing next to him, playfully
batting her eyelashes. “These girls will go to great miles
to get you, Coop. You be careful.”
“That’s great lengths, honey,” Spot said.
“Thank you, sweetie,” she said and leaned over the bar
to give him a kiss. She turned to Coop. “He is the best at
helping me with my Americanisms,” she said. “He hates to do
it, but I make him. Once, at dinner, I ordered Flaming Yon
and Grandma Yea!, and the waiter looked at me like I
was...,” she twirled her finger around her temple, “...you
“Filet Mignon and Grand Marnier?” Coop asked.
“Exactly,” Anna said. “That’s what I ordered. But the
waiter, he did not understand. But my sweetie, he helped
me.” She took the stool next to Coop and said, “So, how did
it go with Gabrielle? I’ve been killing to know.” Spot
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 41
tried to interrupt, but Anna continued. “When’s the big
day? Are we going to have a double wedding? We can have it
here, if she wants.”
“No wedding,” Spot said.
“I never asked her.”
“You did get cold hands, yes?” she asked. Spot let the
mixed Americanism go.
“Yes, but cold hands means warm heart,” Coop said, not
really sure why.
“Let me feel for myself,” Anna said and reached for
Coop’s hands. “Ooh, they are like ice cubes. Your heart
must be on fire.”
“It’s from holding the beer,” Coop said.
“No,” she said. “You have a napkin around the beer.
This is your heart on fire.” She said it with the
conviction of a fortune teller. Coop halfway expected her
to bring out the tarot cards.
“My heart’s not on fire,” he protested. “Especially
not tonight. So can we change the subject?”
“Yeah, let’s change the subject,” Spot said, getting
another round of beer.
They sat in silence for a minute before Anna asked,
“How’s your kitty-cat?”
“I don’t have a kitty-cat,” Coop said a bit too
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 42
“Okay,” Anna said. “How’s your cat?”
“It’s not my cat.” Coop was protesting again. “I hate
cats. All they do is get hair everywhere and throw up all
"Have you named him yet?" Anna asked.
"It’s a her," Coop defended. "And why would I name a
cat I don’t have?"
* * *
Coop closed the sliding glass door of his deck behind
him. The gulf was flat. Small waves nudged in, kissing the
white sand. Dick Velour had gone out again and left his
flood lights on, lighting up the beach like a football
field. Coop set his drink on the table and shook the bag of
Friskies again. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”
Bright lights on the beach cause problems for marine
life. Sea turtles come onto the beach at night to lay their
eggs. When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles instinctively
begin walking toward the light of the moon, to the water,
and to their waiting mothers. But when bright lights are
left on ashore, the turtles get confused and never find
their family, the moon or even the water, leaving the
beaches full of orphaned baby sea turtles.
Coop went to the edge of the deck and shaded his eyes
from Velour’s light. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty," Coop
called, shaking a bag of cat food. "Here kitty, kitty,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 43
kitty," he called again scanning the base of the sea oats
looking for movement. Hell, he couldn’t even hold on to a
stupid cat. She’d probably found a girlfriend too. Coop
shook the bag one last time and stretched out in the chaise-
lounge, the bright lights blinding him. He stood it for one
more minute, then yelled over to Velour’s.
When Velour didn’t respond, Coop had only one
alternative. He went inside for a moment, then returned to
the deck twisting the silencer into the barrel of the
Browning nine millimeter. And in four quick shots the beach
was dark, and once again, safe for the turtles. This was
the fifth time he’d shot out the lights, and Velour still
didn’t have a clue why he kept having to replace them.
In the dark, the bioluminescence sparkled as the gulf’s
surge pushed the water ashore. Cooper sipped his third
Bombay Sapphire, eyed the Pleadies through the telescope,
and though tried not to, thought about Gabrielle. He wanted
to reach over to the other chaise-lounge and feel her there.
If he closed his eyes and imagined, he could feel her tan,
smooth skin. He could trace the small scar on her left knee
with his finger. If he breathed deep enough he could smell
her scent on the beach-towel that had been hanging over the
rail since her last swim. She was now completely off
limits. It was different than if another man had taken her.
For that, he was prepared. But against a woman, there was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 44
no competing. At least they had one more thing in common.
He felt a smile break across his face.
Coop rose from his chair, walked to the railing and
looked out into the darkness. Even at night the sand was
paper white and tonight it glowed in the half moon. Up and
down the beach, it was still. No movement in any direction,
except the water pulsing ashore, as if in rhythm with the
heartbeat of the earth. But as Coop looked closer, the
beach was alive with its own nighttime inhabitants. Sand
crabs scurried about from one hole to the next, night birds
dipped in the shallow waters, a lone dolphin surfaced just
within the realm of visibility, purging his used air.
He walked down the stairs and looked under the deck for
the cat, then around to the side of the house. As he made
his way to the front, checking the base of the oleander
hedge, a car pulled up. He stood in the shadows and could
hear the raised voices from inside the Jaguar. Suddenly the
door opened and Dr. Chang jumped out, hastily shutting the
door behind her. It wasn’t until the Jag took off did she
realize she had shut the door on her strapless dress.
The car accelerated, tearing the light dress from
Chang’s tiny body, leaving the doctor in the middle of the
street completely exposed; no bra, no panties, standing
directly under the streetlight.
Coop waited a moment, not wanting to embarrass her.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 45
Besides, the light from above did her justice. He watched
from the oleanders as she walked up the stairs to her door,
then quickly realized she had left her purse in the car.
Chang flailed her arms in frustration, letting out a few
words Coop couldn’t quite make out.
It was time to leave the shadows and help. As he
crossed the street, he removed his sweatshirt, keeping his
head and eyes down. “Here,” he called as he reached her
driveway. Her driveway was paved with a mix of cement and
sea shells, and was wide enough to park three cars side by
side. Coop heard the footsteps coming down the stairs, and
felt the shirt ripped from his grasp.
“Thanks,” she said quietly.
Still with his head down, “I’m Coop. From across--”
“C’mon,” he said and turned. “I’ll get you some
“You can look now,” she said.
The shirt swallowed the doctor. The arms were
completely scrunched up, and the waist ribbing rested around
her mid thigh--a very smooth, delicate mid thigh. They
locked in an awkward stare as if they had no clue as to what
to do or say next. He thought briefly about inviting her
over for a drink, but remembered his oath to swear off
women. He could’ve ended the whole night right then by
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 46
volunteering to get his burglary tools. He could have her
in her house in ten seconds. But he couldn’t quite remember
where he put them.
“I could use a drink,” she said. “Do you like the
“Stars. You know the things in the sky you see at
“You’ve seen my telescope,” he said, knowing she’d
probably seen it on one of her walks along the beach.
“No. But I’d like to,” she said. “I’ll bet the
Pleiades are beautiful. Can we see them?”
“Well,” Coop said hesitantly, searching for the right
excuse. It was already midnight and he was tired. Tomorrow
was going to be a long day and the last thing he wanted to
do was sit on the deck with a nearly naked woman and stare
at the stars.
On the other hand, she was locked out of her house and
had no where else to go. And it is a dangerous world. What
could a couple of drinks hurt? Coop looked to the southwest
and pointed. “I think they’re over there,” he said.
She took his arm and held on tight. It was a closeness
Coop had felt before with Gabrielle. A comfortable
And maybe after a couple of drinks, he just might
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 47
remember that he had left his burglary tools in the top left
drawer of his desk.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 48
The waves rolled in, and the surfers were out in droves
taking back the wild surf the north winds had stolen.
Overnight the winds had changed directions, and were now
sending the swells and the humidity up from Mexico. The air
was thicker and not as clear. It was the kind of day that
makes the locals hose the sea spray from their cars and gulf
side windows. The green-gray water surged Coop forward as
he swam the last two hundred yards of his routine.
Fatigued, though feeling invigorated with the thought
of his trip, Coop pulled the last stroke, caught a good
sized wave and rode it in until his chest hit the sand. He
was surprised to see Dr. Chang walking down to the water’s
edge to greet him.
They had found a dozen constellations last night
shortly after building the drinks. The rest of the evening
was spent talking. She told him how as a young girl she had
immigrated to San Francisco. He let her do most of the
talking, not really letting much known about himself. He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 49
preferred that way. She had moved to Pensacola after
spending a weekend on the beach during a Medical seminar.
Eventually she planned to return to China for a visit.
Susan stood as he approached. “I wanted to see you
before you left.”
He toweled off his head, his short hair snapping to
attention. “I was going to stop by,” he conceded. Even
with the strong south wind behind him, he could smell her
She slowly backed up, motioning him to follow. “I have
a favor to ask.”
“Ask away,” he said.
“My grandmother, the one in San Francisco, collects
post cards,” she said. “I was just wondering if you could
send some to me from time to time, and I’ll forward them to
Coop was hesitant. The entire mission of the trip was
to forget about responsibility and obligations for a while,
and agreeing to send regular postcards contradicted the
“I don’t mean every day,” she added, apparently in tune
with his thoughts. “Just when you get to somewhere
He could take the time to send a few cards. It wasn’t
that big of a deal. “Don’t expect any long, descriptive
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 50
narratives,” he warned.
“You don’t have to write anything but the address,” she
He followed her up to his house and plopped into one of
the chaise lounges, and she fell into the other as if it
were her own. Jimmy Buffett was coming through the
“When are you leaving?” Susan asked.
“Around noon. I want to get about four hours in
“I think it’s so exciting to just take off and do
whatever you want. Just you, your bike and the open road.”
She took off her sunglasses, wiped off the mist and
returned them to her small face. “You never did say what
your book’s going to be about,” she said and crossed, then
recrossed her legs. “Actually, you never said much at all
“I was listening to you,” he said.
“If you won’t tell me, at least promise to sign my
“If you’re still around when I’m finished.”
The sound of glass shattering came from inside the
house sending Coop to investigate. He padded over the
wooden deck, caught a splinter in his toe, and hobbled
inside. He could hear Susan laughing. In the kitchen, the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 51
cat was slurping up the remaining milk from Coop’s cereal
bowl in the sink.
“There you are,” he said and gave the piebald cat a
little scratch between the ears. “Where the hell’ve you
been?” Coop poured a bowl full of Friskies, set it on the
floor and returned to Dr. Chang.
Susan lay on the chair with her eyes closed, sunglasses
resting on her head. “What was it?” she said without
opening her eyes.
“I didn’t know you had a damn cat.”
“I don’t have a damn cat. I fed this one once and it
keeps coming back.”
“If you stop feeding it, the damn cat won’t come back.”
“I keep telling him that,” Spot said as he walked onto
the deck, startling Susan. Spot stuck his hand out and Coop
made the introductions, mentioning each other’s occupations.
People like it better that way. Not so much as a scorecard
anymore, but a chance to predict what to expect from their
new acquaintances. It’s a way of establishing instant
comfort between two people. Coop had spent his entire life
learning how to fit in with all segments and make anyone
instantly, yet at the same time, genuinely like him.
Lately, though, he didn’t care what most people thought.
Susan reached to shake hands while dipping her glasses
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 52
with the other, giving Spot a full and blatant appraisal.
“Why do they call you Spot?” Susan asked.
Spot laughed and said, “It’s a long story.”
Susan stood and gave Spot another look, an obvious look
of approval. Coop didn’t know whether to feel jealous or
“I’ll bet you two have a lot to go over,” she said.
“I’d better be going.” She caught Coop off guard by giving
him a hug. “Thanks for being there last night.” Then she
surprised him again when she stretched in bare feet to reach
his cheek, giving him a friendly kiss. “Don’t forget the
post cards.” He gave her a slight wave as she left, not
really knowing what to say.
When she was out of sight, Spot said, “Don’t tell me
“What’s this ‘Thanks for last night’ crap then?”
“She was locked out last night. I let her in.”
“Bullshit,” Spot said. “Women don’t just say that, you
know. And when they say it in front of another guy, they’re
up to something.” Spot fidgeted in the chaise until he got
comfortable. “I know these things.”
“I’ll bet you do,” Coop said.
“Seriously,” Spot continued. “She said it thinking I
would assume you did her last night. Only she didn’t count
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 53
on your integrity. Most guys would have lied and said they
nailed her. She wanted me to think you got laid last
“Why the hell for?”
“I’ll tell you why. She’s got something bigger in
store for you, stud. For one fleeting moment she wanted you
to feel like you had her.” Spot took off his sunglasses and
cleaned them on his shirt. “She’s got a missile lock on
you, Coop. I’d watch out.” He returned the glasses to his
face and looked around the beach, taking in the beauty, the
solitude. “Look, I don’t mean to rush you, but what time
are you leaving?”
“Can’t wait to get rid of me?”
Spot shrugged of the response and looked around the
deck. “Got any outlets out here?”
“Yeah. For the band. They’ve got to--”
“C’mon, dude, you can’t have a decent kegger without a
Spot followed Coop inside and stopped at the stereo,
pushed the AM button and searched until he found General
“You’re not really going to listen to that nut are
you?” Coop asked.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 54
“Why not? The guy’s ex-Marine.”
“So was the guy the climbed the tower in Texas.”
“You always say that,” Spot said. “Today he’s going to
talk about Berkshire’s murder cover up.”
“Again?” Coop said. “A guy offs himself in a public
park, and automatically it’s a murder.”
“Well if it was suicide, where’s the bullet? Where are
the footprints leading down the dusty road? The only road
in, I might add.” Spot went to the fridge and grabbed a
beer. “And why weren’t his shoes dusty?” He twisted off
the cap and took a sip. “Oh no. This guy was hit.”
“And according to him, it’s part of a vast government
conspiracy,” Coop said.
“You bet. Shh. Here it is.”
“...and the jack-booted thugs of the BATF, the FBI, and
the IRS took careful aim at that young up-and-comer and
squeezed the trigger. Friends do you know what it’s like to
squeeze the trigger on a man. Some of you do. I sure as
heck do. After serving in uniform during two wars, I seen
the enemy eyeball to eyeball. And I think you’ll agree with
me that it makes every muscle tighten. And the last orifice
to go over the fence seems like it will never relax.
“That young politician...now I know we didn’t need
another, but that’s not the point. The point is that his
life was vaporized in a split second, and now he has to live
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 55
with the disgrace of moving from God’s green pastures to
God’s white and beautiful heaven, having looked like he had
committed the ultimate sin. We have to follow through with
this. We know whose office the order came from. We have to
put an end to it. It’s up to people like you, people like
me and people like our first caller. Go ahead, Jack in
“Turn that shit off,” Coop called from his chair,
leaning over his scuffed Eagle Creek daypack.
“I want to hear what he’s going to say.”
“I’ll save you the time. He’s going to blame
everyone’s problems on the government,” he said as he
stuffed a few pairs of jeans into the black pack. “And he’s
going to try and convince you that we as Americans aren’t
going to be happy and successful unless we have the right to
bear arms,” he said as he stuck the Browning 9mm in between
the jeans and the tee-shirts. He carried the weapon more
out of habit than fear. He didn’t expect any excitement on
the road. He just felt naked without it.
“What’s wrong with the second amendment?”
“Nothing. I’m just saying that he relies on those
less...,” he searched for the right phrase, “open to
opposing views to follow his lead. He looks for those who
only get their information from one source.” He slipped in
a few pairs of thick white socks. “People hear one thing
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 56
long enough, they tend to believe it, Spot.”
“Are you telling me there are no government
“Sure there are,” Coop said. “But not to the extent
that this guy says. Hell, according to him, you’re part of
a conspiracy. You flew a black helicopter once, didn’t
“They were testing a special kind of paint,” Spot said.
“To see if it would give off a radar image.”
“Sure,” Coop said. “That’s what they told you.”
“How about you?” Spot asked, getting a beer from the
fridge. “You could be part of a conspiracy too. You did
work for the CIA.”
“That’s right. Me and a couple hundred thousand other
people who have worked for them are all part of some giant
government conspiracy,” he said.
“It could happen,” Spot said and finished his beer. He
helped himself to the last Dos Equis, and noticed Coop’s
small bag. “A month on the road and that’s all you’re
“It’s enough. If I need anything else, I’ll get it
later.” Coop looped the bag over his shoulder, grabbed the
Calloway Titanium-Shaft Big Bertha Driver Spot had bought
him for his last birthday and a few sleeves of balls. Spot
followed him to the three car garage where he kept the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 57
Hummer and the Harley.
The black and chrome Harley Davidson Fat Boy leaned on
its thin kickstand, waiting to be ridden. Coop had made
only a few modifications since he bought it. A buddy of his
who had worked on every kind of transmission known to man
installed a suicide gear on the bike just after Coop bought
it. With two clicks up on the shifter, the bike would go
backwards. Like the Browning, Coop never thought he would
need it. It just felt good to have it.
“Man, is she sweet. I hardly ever see you ride this
thing,” Spot said.
“Well, today you can watch me ride all the way to end
of the street. After that you won’t see me for a month.”
Coop secured Big Bertha and the pack. He double checked his
wallet for his license, concealed weapon permit, and his
Visa card. They hugged goodbye and each patted the other
hard on the back the way men do. Coop climbed aboard and
hit the start button. The bike came alive. The noise made
Spot step back.
“Put in reverse,” Spot yelled. “I want to see you go
Coop double clicked up, setting the bike into reverse.
“Make sure there’s a few beers in the fridge when I get
back,” Coop called over the noise.
“Roger that,” Spot said, and pushed the button to open
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 58
the garage door.
“And don’t forget to feed the cat.”
Spot answered with the thumbs up, and Coop gave the
throttle a twist, sending the bike backward. When he
applied the back brake, and shifted into first he was still
rolling back so the front tire lifted a few inches off the
ground. Then just for Spot’s benefit, Coop jerked back on
the throttle and rode a wheelie until he had to shift to
second. He escaped around the corner, down Via DeLuna, and
headed west in the cool April air, moving farther and
farther away from Gabrielle.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 59
In his private office in Crystal City, Virginia, hidden
amongst the towering hotels and high tech companies, Senator
McAlpin palmed his thinning gray hair and leaned against the
mahogany desk a lumber lobbyist had given him for his help
in defeating an environmental bill. He was wearing his
seer-sucker suit, because he thought the lines made him look
a tad thinner. “Sit down, Beckett,” he said. “You say you
got news? What is it? I’m a goddamn busy man. If it’s
about tonight, I told you--,”
His assistant, Charles Beckett, put down the bottle of
Jack Daniels and held up a slim finger, effectively hushing
the Senator. He flipped on the radio, settled into the
comfortable burgundy leather wing chair with a sip of his
drink, and asked in a very low tone, “Cleaning crew come by
Beckett had ordered random sweepings for acoustical
surveillance since a spike had been found buried halfway in
the wall from the outside. Its placement allowed it to pick
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 60
up both sides of any conversation in the office whether in
person or on the phone.
It took a week, but Beckett traced the bug to its
owner, Senator Randolph Berkshire. He was some young,
idealist politician who was hell bent on cleaning up
politics, including, and especially, Senator McAlpin.
Berkshire and his buddy Senator Varela, another young
Senator from Florida, were on a mission to expose McAlpin
and his contributions to the intelligence communities.
Beckett confronted Berkshire at a White House dinner,
and of course, Berkshire denied it all. But Beckett waited
until later that evening, and knowing that Berkshire tended
to drink too much, kept pressing.
“Maybe we did,” Berkshire eventually said.
“I don’t think that was such a good idea, Senator,”
Beckett said. “Don’t you know that those little devices
leave electronic fingerprints?” He shook his head in
disbelief. “Man, whoever does your work for you needs a
little education. All it took was a couple of hours work
and we knew it was you.”
“So. We got what we want,” Berkshire said. “And a
little more. I didn’t realize you and McAlpin were, how
shall I say it...so close?”
Beckett struggled to remain composed. “Gentlemen don’t
listen to other gentlemen’s conversations, Senator.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 61
Two days later, The Washington Post reported Berkshire
was found dead on a park bench after having taken his own
life with a handgun. What they didn’t report and didn’t
know was that an eavesdropping device has been shoved deep
into his inner ear, a message from Senator McAlpin. More
directly, a message from Beckett. It was the perfect hit.
Only those who needed to know were aware it was a hit, and
the idiot-masses would continue to believe it was suicide.
"Yeah. Yeah,” the Senator said, bringing Beckett back
to the present. “We swept the place just like you ordered,"
the Senator said impatiently. “Now what the hell do you
have to tell me that’s so goddamn important?”
Beckett had taken the call from Mothersole and began to
explain to his boss just what had happened. "As soon as she
is able to determine what was taken, we’ll have a better
idea,” he said. Beckett removed the wire-rimmed glasses
from his face and wiped his tired eyes. He twirled the
glasses in his fingers.
“How the hell could this have happened?” the Senator
said, still pacing the worn blue carpet. “Mothersole had
one of her premonitions last week and said something like
this was going to happen,” he said shaking a thick finger at
Beckett. “You should have sent down a few men.”
“On another fucking Mothersole premonition? It was the
third one this month.” Beckett downed his drink and went
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 62
“Every agent we ever recruited is on those files,” the
Senator said. “It covers almost forty years of operations.
How the hell could she have found them?”
“Mothersole thinks the woman may have delivered there.”
“I bet it was the goddamn Russians. They’re always in
on shit like this.”
“Maybe,” Beckett said.
“Hell, son, she had to have some kind of outside help.
She couldn’t have done this alone. Women aren’t that
smart. And it sure as hell wasn’t an American.”
“I don’t know, Senator. America’s not trusting her
government like they used to. A lot of people are getting
suspicious about a lot of things.”
“This woman stole secrets pertaining to agents deeply
implanted in foreign governments. If she is Russian, Middle
Eastern, or whatever, she’s effectively killed everyone of
our agents.” His chair squeaked as the Senator leaned
forward. “She needs to be demoted, Beckett. Maximally.”
“We’ve downloaded stills from the security cameras and
faxed her picture to some people in the field. We’ve got
the airports and bus terminals staked. We’re also
monitoring all ticket sales. First in the local area, then
spreading out. We’ve also got the interstates covered. If
she catches a cab in Bumfuck Egypt, we’re going to know
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 63
about it.” Beckett added another ice cube. “We’ll have her
here in 24 hours,” he said, sipping the drink. The bourbon
used to burn as it went down. Now he felt hardly a tingle.
“Can I get you one, Senator?”
“What you can get me is that girl,” McAlpin said and
crossed his hands across his substantial stomach. He seemed
a bit more relaxed. “Are you sure you’ll have her by
“Positive,” Beckett said twirled the ice with his
pinky. “We’re getting an I.D. on the girl now, and as soon
as it comes in, I’m having Justice issue an APB on her.
Every backwoods yahoo across the country will be looking for
“What makes you so sure you’re going to get the full
support of local law enforcement?”
Beckett took another sip. “Cops hate cop-killers,
Senator. “We’ll say she killed three D.C. cops during a
liquor store hold up.”
For the first time tonight, the Senator smiled. It
made Beckett happy. “You’re brilliant, Beckett. Absolutely
“That’s why you pay me the big bucks, Senator.”
“You just keep earning them, Beckett. This is no time
for a scandal. Rumor has it I’m going to suffer a Senate
inquiry. So I can’t afford any negative press.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 64
“Negative press, Senator?” Beckett said. “I don’t
think this is what you would call negative press. Fucking
your assistant is negative press,” he said. “Involving
yourself in shady, Wall Street deals is negative press. But
this, Senator, this goes far beyond that. For this, we all
go to federal prison. And for a very long time.” Beckett
finished his drink and set the glass on the Senator’s desk.
McAlpin opened a drawer, took out his snub nosed .38
and hefted it in his hand. “That’s not going to happen,
son,” he said, waving the gun around, taking aim at
different objects in the room. “There’s no way I can go to
“Don’t worry about a thing,” Beckett said unfazed.
“I’ll take care of everything.”
“I know you will, Charles. You always do.” McAlpin
slid the weapon into a clip-on holster and slipped it on his
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 65
Kathryn adjusted the brunette wig, slipped on the thick
glasses and situated her fake teeth as she sat in her car
outside the First Tennessee Savings and Loan of Nashville.
It was the third bank she had hit this morning.
Fortunately, it was to be the last. She checked her
disguise in the rearview mirror of the Escort, then with all
the confidence she could muster, said, “You’re going to make
a great mom.” But the strange face with the bucked teeth
looked back at her through the mirror with a hollow stare.
And even through the thick glasses, Kathryn could read the
uncertainty in her own eyes. Her life had been scripted for
success, and no where in the writing was there a part for a
Kathryn was one of South’s most sought after
architects, specializing in the redesign and remodeling of
Ante Bellum mansions. She had ten to fifteen projects at
any given time in cities like Charleston, New Orleans,
Savannah, and several smaller towns, never more than an hour
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 66
long Delta flight from her home in Atlanta. Ever since her
work was featured in Architectural Digest and Southern
Living during two consecutive months, the phones hadn’t
stopped ringing. Work was coming in faster than she
could’ve ever imagined, giving her enough projects to keep
her busy for two years. She had no intentions of walking
away from her business and she certainly had no intentions
of being a mother. But that was until she met Jonas.
Kathryn was at another Atlanta charity event when he
approached her. She was sipping champagne with the Governor
when the round faced, barrel-chested man wearing jeans and a
khaki shirt approached her.
“I’ve seen some of your work,” he said, ignoring the
Governor. “You’re quite good.”
The Governor quickly stepped away from the man, leaving
Kathryn alone with him.
“Thank you,” she whispered as the politician left. “I
was trying to get rid of him all night.”
“I never really cared for politicians,” the man said in
a his deep, calming baritone voice. “Can’t trust ‘em.”
“All of them, or just some?” she asked. She was ready
for a little stimulating conversation. The Governor had
bored her practically to death.
“All,” he replied. “Every last one of those
scoundrels. They’re all evil,” he said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 67
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those conspiracists,
“No,” he said. “Just Jonas.”
“Well?” Kathryn asked.
“Am I a conspiracist? That depends,” he said. “Do you
mean do I think the government is evil? No. But I think
politician’s are, and I think arming the IRS with automatic
weapons is wrong.”
“They don’t arm the IRS,” she said.
“Ma’am, the recent approved budget called for spending
almost one million dollars on nine millimeters, AR-15s, and
shotguns for our IRS agents. Now I ask you, does that sound
like a kinder and gentler IRS?”
“That’s absurd,” she said.
“But it’s true,” he replied. “The budget is public
record. Look it up.”
“I’ll have to do that,” she said and sipped her
bourbon. “So, what type of work do you do, Jonas?”
Jonas waited to answer. He waited until he was sure no
one else was listening. Then rather than answer, he pulled
a some photographs from his breast pocket. They were black
and white shots of young boys in uniform. He handed one to
her. “Does this boy look like anyone you know?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 68
Kathryn studied the photo. Something about the boy
looked vaguely familiar, but she wasn’t sure enough to say.
“Not really,” she said.
“You had a child once, didn’t you?”
It was one of the most painful memories of her life she
had tried to keep tucked away, hidden in a small closet of
her mind. But suddenly the smells of that Tennessee clinic
swept through the ballroom, the deep feeling of loss and
disappointment swelled inside her as if she had lost her
child at that precise moment, and a flash of nervous warmth
spread through her body. She never felt her knees give way.
She never felt herself fall in to Jonas’ arms.
Kathryn had never told the father. They had parted a
few weeks after the assignation. Six weeks later, Kathryn
took the test and saw the unmistakable blue line of
pregnancy. Unlike the majority of her contemporaries,
Kathryn believed the woman’s right to choose also included
the right to choose adoption. She couldn’t terminate the
pregnancy, and she was certainly not the mother--type. A
loving, two parent family was the only choice.
Kathryn had isolated herself when she began to show,
managing projects from her home, working through sub
contractors, and refusing new projects. The adoption agent
had all the details lined up, a couple from Indiana had been
selected to receive the child, the hospital and physician’s
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 69
services had been paid. Everything was going smoothly.
Then came a problem with one of the estates in
Tennessee. The sub contractors she hired weren’t meeting
the deadlines and, if she didn’t respond immediately, she
was going to lose the $320,000 project. She wanted to fly,
but the doctor advised against it. Instead, at seven months
along, she drove.
Kathryn had researched the process of gestation and she
knew what a Braxton-Hicks was. But as the pains kept
getting worse, she kept driving. Even when they started
coming closer and closer together, she kept driving. False
labor, she kept telling herself. It was only after her
water broke, did she begin to look for a blue road sign to a
She arrived in time to be checked in and questioned. A
heavy smoking nurse read from a clipboard. Her badge said
her name was Mothersole. “Any living relatives?” the nurse
asked, exhaling the last bit of smoke from her lungs.
“No,” Kathryn replied.
“No brothers or sisters?”
“No aunts, uncles, anybody?”
“No, dammit. Just me. Now can you start the goddamn
The nurse smiled slightly as she took her place behind
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 70
the wheelchair. “Let’s get you into a room. We’ll get your
epidural started as soon as we get there.” She pushed her
past the rooms of the small clinic. The stench of feces and
urine permeated the walls, the floors, the ceilings. “I’ll
bet your girlfriends threw you a big shower,” the nurse said
trying to make small talk.
“I don’t have any girlfriends,” Kathryn replied, taking
the pain of another contraction. After college she had
lost touch with them. And her career had kept her from
meeting any new friends.
“Then who’s helping you through the pregnancy?”
“No one,” she said. “No one even knows I’m going to
have a baby.” The nurse gave either a subtle laugh of
satisfaction or a few grunts of sorrow. Kathryn couldn’t
tell and didn’t really care. All she wanted was to get into
the room and get the epidural started.
The last thing she remembered clearly was rolling to
her side, the stick of the needle, and the pressure as the
nurse inserted the epidural. She vaguely recalled a baby
crying, the voice of a foreign doctor, and the fat nurse
Eight hours later she awoke from the drugs. Her
stomach was flat but shapeless, the skin temporarily having
lost its elasticity. The pain from the episiotomy slowly
began to register with her mind. She looked around the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 71
small room. There was no TV, no phone, no chair for
visitors. Only a call button just out of reach.
It was over. And she was sad. She had carried the
baby for seven months and, though she tried to convince
herself she wouldn’t, she knew she would forever wonder what
her child was doing, what he or she looked like, and was he
or she being loved. Adoption was a difficult choice to
make. It would’ve been very easy for her to keep the baby,
raising it as a single mother. Most consider that to be
very romantic; a single mother raising a child while trying
to manage a successful business. But she had a mother who
chose a career over a daughter, and fortunately when her
mother left, she had her dad to raise her. Adoption was an
honorable choice, and she was proud of the decision she
The door opened and a nurse poked her head in. “How’re
you feeling,” she asked.
“I could use something for the pain,” she said. “I’m
starting to feel the episiotomy.”
“I’ll get Nurse Mothersole.” And she backed out of the
Moments later, the big nurse walked in and stood next
to Kathryn. She grabbed her wrist and checked her pulse.
The woman smelled like tobacco.
“Could I see my baby?” Kathryn asked. “I don’t even
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 72
know if I had a boy or a girl.”
“A boy,” Mothersole responded.
“Can I see him?”
Mothersole set the wrist down. “How’s the pain?”
“I need something,” she said.
Mothersole pulled a syringe from her pocket and
uncapped it. “Roll to your side,” she said. “This will
take the edge off.”
Kathryn turned in the bed, trying not to disturb the
delicate stitches. “When can I see him,” she asked again.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Mothersole
“I just want to see him,” Kathryn pleaded. “I just
want to hold him.”
Mothersole pulled Kathryn back toward her. “Kathryn,”
she said. “There were some complications. The doctor had
to make a choice.”
“What kind of choice? What happened?” The medication
was instantly taking effect. The pain was gone and the
warmth spread to her chest and arms.
Mothersole took Kathryn’s hand. The nurse’s hands were
rough and callused. “Your baby was still born,” she said.
She offered no apology, no excuse.
“I heard him cry,” she said. “He couldn’t.” Her voice
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 73
“It was just a dream,” Mothersole said. “A
hallucination caused by all the drugs.”
“I just had an epidural,” Kathryn said, her head
clouding as she desperately tried to form sentences. “What
did you give me?”
“Something to make you relax,” Mothersole said.
“Something to make you sleep.”
“Am I going to sleep long?” she said. The injection
was making her say things she didn’t want to say. “I don’t
want to sleep long. I want to go home,” she said. “I want
to see my baby. My daddy would be proud. I want my baby.
I want my baby,” was the last thing she remembered saying to
* * *
When she finally came to, Jonas was kneeling over her,
someone else offered her a glass of water, and a half dozen
people looked on. “She’s all right,” Jonas said to the
crowd. “Thanks for your help. Now let’s give her some
room.” As the small crowd dispersed, Jonas helped her to
her feet. “Therapy hasn’t help much, has it?”
Straightening her suit, Kathryn asked, “How did you
“There’s a lot I know about you, Kathryn. I know your
dad died your first year at Yale. I know your mother--if
you can call her that--runs one of the biggest ad agencies
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 74
on the west coast. I know you consider yourself a lousy
potential mother. And I also know five years of seeing a
psychologist hasn’t diminished the love and the bond you
have for the son you delivered.”
He was impressive on all accounts. Especially on the
last two. “So you’ve done your homework,” she said. “What
do you want with me?”
Jonas wrote an address on the back of the boy’s
picture. “Meet me tomorrow at zero nine hundred.”
Kathryn looked down momentarily to slip the photo into
her purse. When she looked up, he was gone.
That night, she dug through old photos, looking for any
picture of her as a child. Finally, after going through her
father’s old boxes, she found a few shots of her when she
was five. She held up the photos next to each other for
comparison. Kathryn and the boy had to same nose, the same
eyes. Even though the picture was black and white, she
could still see the black drops in the boy’s iris.
She wasn’t rich, but she had some money in the bank.
So if this Jonas guy was conning her, he wasn’t going to get
much. With that in mind, she showed up at the address a
little after nine. It was an old bookstore located in a
mostly black part of Atlanta. The sign said the store was
closed, but when Kathryn showed up at the door, a tall thin
black man opened the door, ushered her in, and locked the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 75
door behind her. The place smelled like what it was; an old
library full of musty books.
“Upstairs,” the man said. “He’s waiting.”
Jonas sat at an antique table full of scratches and
vandal’s carvings. Next to him, was a stack of pictures, in
front of him, lay what looked like a handwritten letter.
“Sit down,” he offered as he stood. “Tea?”
“Let’s get to the point,” Kathryn said. “I’ve got a
plane to catch.”
“Certainly,” the man said.
“I’m not even sure why I’m here,” she said, trying to
hide her curiosity. He knew enough about her to make it
“Ever seen a black helicopter?” he asked.
“Jesus,” cried. “Is this what this is all about?”
“No,” he said emphatically.
“What the hell is it then,” she asked.
The man began a story so far fetched, Kathryn had
trouble keeping up. Jonas rambled on about black
helicopters, factories in Mexico, the CIA, something he
called Operation Prodigy. His diatribe lasted almost three
hours, though Kathryn listened for only one hour. The rest
on the time she spent thinking of her next vacation. Though
the work was piling up, she had to get away. She thought
about the Caymans, or Belize. St. Kitts would be nice. She
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 76
always wanted to learn to dive. She was going to stay at
one of the dive resorts wherever she ended up. Usually
they’re tucked away from the usual tourist spots, giving you
the opportunity to be a traveler and not a tourist. She had
already decided on a date and was just trying to figure out
which rental car company to call when something stuck in her
“...your son’s there,” Jonas said, pointing at a photo
of a red clay building surrounded by a ten-foot barbed wire
fence. “They go to the rifle range every morning at ten.
This one was taken just after he finished.”
“My son?” she said. “I don’t have a son?”
Jonas nodded toward the picture she held. “That’s
him,” Jonas said. “And if you do exactly what I tell you,
you can get him back.”
And now, a month later, Kathryn was sitting outside the
bank, doing everything Jonas had told her, including wearing
the cheap wig, fake teeth and opening safe deposit boxes all
Once inside the bank, relieved there were no metal
detectors, she peered out of the smoked-glass door to see if
anyone had followed her. Once secure, she approached a
teller. “I’d like to get a safe deposit box, please.”
“Right this way, mam,” the woman said, and came from
around the window and introduced herself as Marjorie
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 77
MacDowell, a Vice President. “I’ll just need to get some
information from you,” Ms. MacDowell said. “Do you have
your drivers license, Ms.--”
“Thompson. Mindy Thompson,” Kathryn said, looking
through her purse for her identification. “I know it’s in
here somewhere. These purses,” she said, “you’d think that
for what you pay for them, they would keep you better
organized.” She held the purse at an angle so the woman
couldn’t see the small .38 caliber tucked in a corner.
Kathryn continued to dig, careful not to bring out the wrong
license. “Here it is,” she said and held it up.
Kathryn halfway listened as the woman gave her ten
minute speech on security, confidentiality, and access. In
the end, whoever had the key had access. She just needed to
dump the files off and get on the road. She didn’t care
about bank hours or how many tellers they had, or what time
the guard comes in. If McAlpin knew she had a box, he could
get to it anyway. “Can I just get to the boxes please?” she
“Oh,” the woman said, as if she was disappointed that
she wasn’t going be able to finish her speech. “I guess.”
Kathryn followed her down a long hallway. The polished
floors reminded her of the clinic, but without the stench of
Inside the vault, Ms. MacDowell expertly found the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 78
right box and, using two keys, pulled number 335 out of its
slot. “Will this size do?” she asked.
“It’ll be fine,” Kathryn replied.
“There are cubicles back there for your privacy,” she
said and handed Kathryn the box.
Inside the cubicle, Kathryn transferred the files and
the computer disks from her backpack to the box. She shut
the box and gave it to MacDowell. She hid the key in a
small compartment of her daypack. Moments later, she
emerged into the early Tennessee sun, ready for the drive to
She had wanted to fly, but Jonas had said, “They’ll
have agents at every airport, bus terminal, and train
station looking for you." His voice was deep and resonant
and he spoke with the right mix of authority and tenderness.
"Every rental car contract will be screened for one way
rentals. And those will be screened for women traveling
alone, paying cash. The government can find out anything it
wants, anytime it wants to,” he said. “They’ll also have
checkpoints at every on and off ramp the interstate has.”
“What then?” she asked. “How do I get back?”
“Take five thousand dollars and buy a car. Then take
the back roads all the way to Arizona.”
“Buy a car?” she asked, somewhat surprised.
“From some kid out of the paper,” he continued.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 79
“Dealers ask too many questions and want to keep you there
all day. Give the kid his asking price in cash and take the
car. Tell him you’ll meet them the next day to sign the
papers. The whole process should take less time than it
takes to rent one.”
She had found a bland Ford Escort with forty-thousand
miles on it for $4800. The air condition and the radio
worked. It didn’t go too fast, but it blended in with the
rest of the cars on the road.
Now she sat waiting to pull out into the late morning
traffic, looking for Highway 70 west, the first leg of her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 80
April was still biting cold in the Virginia suburbs as
Senator McAlpin and Beckett jogged around Burke Lake. The
tiny gravel crunched under their slow moving feet and
Beckett wished the Senator could run faster. It was too
damn cold to run that slow.
Between huffs, the Senator said, “Twenty four hours,
son. That’s what you told me. Your twenty four hours is
“Yes sir. I know,” Beckett said. He hated
disappointing the Senator. “We got the film from the
security cameras and we have identified her, though.”
“Who is she?”
“She been to the clinic before?”
“About five years ago,” Beckett said. “That’s how we
The Senator stopped in his tracks. He wasn’t going
very fast so it wasn’t such a sudden stop. “Goddamn it!” A
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 81
group of joggers were approaching, and he waited for them to
pass, then kept his voice low. “If she goes to the press,
“If she was going, she would have gone by now,” Beckett
“That’s bullshit, son. She can go anytime she wants.”
The Senator began moving again. “And I’ve got enough
problems with the press right now. That little punk Senator
from Florida is screaming for hearings on my agent
recruitment practices. I think it’s a bunch of shit. I
mean who cares how we recruit those people,” he said. “You
know whose fault this is? Talk radio and that General
Wright whacko.” The Senator must have watched Rocky last
night because he began shadowing boxing as he puttered.
“What about the girl?” Beckett had never seen the Senator
shadow box before. It was all in slow motion, and the fat
man could barely get his fists past the girth of his waist.
Beckett had to look away to keep from laughing.
“Well, sir, we’ve accessed her accounts--”
“Did you freeze them?” he said with a left jab. “I
want you to freeze them.” Then another left jab followed by
a right hook.
“No sir. If we did that, she’d know we were on to her.
We’ve just accessed them. This way if she makes any kind
of transaction, we can find her.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 82
“Good thinking. I want this bitch wiped out,” he said
and threw another jab. “And then I want to go after that
fucking idiot General Wright. Goddamn, he’s a pain in my
ass,” the Senator said and landed a solid right uppercut.
He raised his hands in the air and did a little victory
dance as if he were just declared the winner.
“Sir. The way I see it, if she had gone to the press
already, we would have heard about it. If she had given it
to anyone, we’d have heard about.” Beckett shook his head.
“No. I think she secured it somewhere, like a safe deposit
“If she’s stupid enough to put it in one, then our
problems are over, son.”
“Right now we’re examining all of the security footage
from all the banks within a 100 mile radius of the clinic
and comparing it with the video from the clinic.”
“What if someone else dropped it off?”
“I don’t think so. If she had an accomplice, she would
have had someone else with her at the clinic. She barely
got out of there alive, you know.”
“How could she have accessed all the information
without inside help?” The Senator stopped again. “Who else
works at the clinic besides Mothersole? Anyone else we’re
“There’s a new doctor. Langston, I think his name is.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 83
“How does he play into this?”
“He doesn’t. He has no clue.”
“Background check come back okay?”
“Yes sir. The 398 came back clean.”
“Where was he when all this was going on?”
“He tackled Mothersole out of defense of the girl. A
natural thing to do if you don’t know what’s going on.”
“Check this guy out again. Find out who he calls,
where he goes to drink beer, where he gets his laundry done.
I want two men on him everywhere. If he shits, I want to
know what color.”
“And find the files. I don’t care if you have to check
every goddamn safe deposit box in the fucking country.”
“Yes sir,” Beckett said. They started to jog again
but Beckett’s cellular phone rang. Yeah? Okay.
Outstanding.” He folded the phone and slipped into his
“Good news?” the Senator asked.
“Very good. Let’s run,” he said smiling, nodding his
head toward the path.
The path wound it way up small hills through the leave-
less elm and oak trees. A family of bikers passed them from
behind, all wearing brightly colored helmets.
“Those things look so fruity,” the Senator said. “Do
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 84
they really work?”
“You’re going to say they do when the mandatory bicycle
helmet law comes up for debate. The manufactures have put a
lot of money into your campaign.”
“As long as I don’t have to wear one, the Senator said.
“Who was on the phone?”
“You’ll like this,” Beckett said. He knew his boss was
going to be proud of him. “We’ve found the girl. She wrote
a check for car repairs in Cherryvale, Kansas.”
“That is good news. Who are you going to send?”
“If I could, I’d send Mallory,” Beckett said.
“He’s the best,” the Senator added.
“Yeah, but he’s out of the country. On Company
“What about Stevenson?” the Senator asked.
“Can’t. His wife’s having the baby soon. He wants to,
get this, ‘bond’ with his new son.”
“How about Riddley?”
“I see,” said the Senator. “What about the FNGs.”
“Howell and Krispinski?” Beckett asked. “They’re fresh
out of the Company and have never done any contract work
“They can handle it. And they’re cheap.”
“All right. But if they fuck it up, don’t come
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 85
bitching to me,” Beckett said as they shuffled over the dam.
“Make sure we send Stevenson’s wife a card. Having a
child is the most splendid event in a woman’s life.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 86
After a week on the road, the soreness had all but
faded from Coop’s rear as the custom-made leather seat
finally began to break in. He had reached the small,
southeastern Kansas town of Cherryvale around five. He had
planned to camp at Big Hill State Park right on the lake,
but the weather was threatening, and he had camped for four
nights in a row. Tonight a clean, comfortable hotel looked
good. Actually, any hotel looked good. His back was
killing him from sleeping on the ground, and he needed a
shower. He was beginning to smell pretty gamey.
He found the Inn of Cherryvale--a pretentious name for
a dusty roadside motel-- and pulled into the empty parking
lot to check in. The room had one king bed and a small bath
that had been last remodeled in the early sixties. A rotary
dial phone was on the nightstand.
Coop sat on the bed and stared at the phone. He stared
at it for almost a minute before he picked up the handset.
He knew her number by heart, and knew she’d probably answer.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 87
She may even talk for a while. He wouldn’t mind hearing her
voice. He had seen in the movies where the guy calls the
girl, then hangs up as she answered, only wanting to hear
her voice. And until that very moment, poised in front of
the ancient phone, he never understood why they did that.
Coop dialed the first ten numbers, waiting, summoning his
courage for the last. He waited, hoping some sudden urge of
adrenaline would rush through him, forcing him to dial the
But then there was the waitress from the Oasis. He
remembered seeing her a few times coming and going from
Gabrielle’s apartment complex. She might answer the phone,
and he wouldn’t know what to say. He would have to hang up
without hearing Gabrielle’s voice. He certainly couldn’t
ask to speak to Gabrielle then hang up the phone.
But it was late, and the waitress was probably already
at work. As he tossed that theory around, his confidence
grew. The waitress would be at work, Gabrielle would be
alone. She’d have to answer the phone. She would think
it’s her waitress. Her waitress. She would hope it’s her
waitress. She would hope it’s her waitress and not him.
Coop stared at the phone for another minute before he
lowered the handset to the cradle.
He lay back on the bed and shut his eyes. It had been
a long day, and tomorrow’s leg was even longer. Perhaps
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 88
he’d get a steak later. A steak always cheered him up.
After laundry detail and a shower, he walked across the
parking lot to the Torch Lounge and Family Restaurant. The
inside was like it should be with dark panel walls and
plastic tablecloths. Football memorabilia decorated the
room--mostly old Chiefs posters, game jerseys and kicking
tees. A couple of autographed helmets were covered in dust
and hanging from the ceiling by fishing line. One side of
the building was the bar, the other was the restaurant
boasting of home cooked meals like Grandma used to make.
Coop never knew his grandma, but tonight he was hoping she
was a damn good cook.
There were no windows in the bar, so it took some time
for his eyes to adjust. An elderly woman in a tuxedo shirt
and a red bow tie was finding things to do behind the bar.
A table of three men looked as if they were about to leave.
An elderly couple sat in the corner under a Bud Light sign,
and an attractive woman sat alone, nursing what looked like
a bourbon. He passed the bar and ordered a beer. No Dos
Equis, so he took a Bud Light. He found a table where he
could watch the comings and goings of the room.
The bartender delivered his beer and a bowl of fresh
pretzels as the three men left. The woman ordered another
bourbon, and the couple ordered more gin and tonics. He
looked at the woman without being noticed. She was around
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 89
thirty. There were only two chairs at her table, and she
had her purse in one of them. With only one napkin on the
table, he pegged as a lone drinker. If she were waiting for
someone, a seat would have been ready, and there would
likely be another napkin on the table.
The woman personified suburbia, looking like she had
just come from running the kids to swim practice in her
Honda Accord, or more likely, her minivan. Maybe after
happy-hour, she was off to a PTA meeting or a Junior League
But at closer examination, her clothes were a touch too
wrinkled, she rubbed her eyes as if they were tired, and her
face took the sallow look of a bored traveler.
Coop ordered another beer as two men walked into the
bar. One had stringy blonde hair too long for a man his
age. The other was overweight, but had very muscular arms.
They were a little too loud to be completely sober.
“Gimme me a beer, Betty,” the blonde said. “And one
for Dewayne too.” With their backs against the bar, resting
on their elbows, and holding their beers, they surveyed the
room. They dismissed Coop and the couple immediately and
walked over to the Junior Leaguer. With their backs to
Coop, he couldn’t hear what they were saying. From time to
time he established eye contact with the woman and even once
he flashed her the okay sign, and she signaled back that she
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 90
A beer later, they were still there, though he had
given up checking on her. He wasn’t about to get involved
in the local BS that goes on in hotel bars/family
restaurants. He was just an observer. Nothing more.
Another beer, and Coop was looking around the room when
his eyes met the woman’s. She was frantically trying to get
his attention and looked like she had been trying for
awhile. Maybe it was because the two guys were such losers
that he decided to help. Maybe it was because she wasn’t so
unattractive. Whatever it was, he walked over to her table
with a plan in mind. A subtle plan.
“Oh, my God,” Coop said, overly enthusiastic and
bordering on flamboyance. “Is that you? I haven’t seen you
in years.” He opened his arms for a hug, and as she held
him close, he whispered in her ear, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Coop,” he said and released the hold. Ignoring
the men completely, he pulled up a chair and sat facing her
with his back to them. “Kathryn, I haven’t seen you in
years. How the hell have you been? Jeffrey is always
asking about you, you know. How’s Mel and the boys? I
heard he’s off the bottle.”
“He’s doing fine,” she said. Coop could see she was
trying not to smile. “How is Jeffery?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 91
“Wonderful. He’s learning to drive again. Ever since
he was thrown off that mechanical bull in Key West, he
hasn’t been the same.” As he spoke, he watched the
reflection in her eyes in case the two guys tried anything.
The woman possessed the most beautiful eyes. They were the
shade of jade, only deeper. And on each iris, a little
pupil-black had spilled into a deep ocean of green. Coop
had almost forgotten about watching the reflection when a
movement reminded him.
Coop was sitting with the two men behind him. It was a
very non-threatening position, but a position that could
quickly change. His chair was intentionally pushed away
from the table, and he sat on the edge, allowing him to
stand quickly without knocking over the table or having to
back up. He watched her eyes widen as he felt a hand on his
“Me and Dewayne was here first, tinkerbell. So whyn’t
you do the polite thing and leave before we have to make you
Coop stood slowly, raising his hands as if to
surrender, mostly a show for the old couple and the
bartender. Coop didn’t want to be labeled a trouble-maker
in some small town. “Look, mister,” he said with a slight
lisp. “I don’t want any trouble. I’m just having a drink
with an old friend.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 92
“Elmo,” Betty called from the bar. “Leave that couple
“Elmo?” Coop said in amazement. He couldn’t resist.
“Your parents named you Elmo?”
“Yeah, what of it?” Elmo said.
“Nothing,” Coop said almost laughing. He looked to
Kathryn and said, “I just thought that Elmo was the kind of
name people made up.”
When he turned back to the two men, his jaw was met
with a bony fist. Coop’s head snapped back, and he grabbed
his chin and rubbed it. “C’mon, Elmo. You’re going to have
to better than that,” Coop said and pointed to his chin.
“I’ll let you try again. Right here.”
Elmo looked to Dewayne for support. Dewayne shrugged
and said. “Fuck it. Hit him again.” Elmo nodded, reared
back and swung as hard as he could.
In the last moment possible, Coop moved his chin out of
the way, and as Elmo’s momentum carried him, Coop used the
leverage to catch him. He grabbed him under the arms, spun
him around and pushed him into his buddy. The two collided,
and before they could fall, Coop began pushing both of them
toward the door, each stumbling with every shove.
Just as they were about to regain their balance, Coop
would push again. If they had fallen, they would’ve been
able to compose themselves, but a man will resist being
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 93
pushed to the ground. It was a matter of pride.
Elmo and Dewayne fought to keep their balance all the
way out the door into the parking lot where, with no one
around to have to prove anything too, they stumbled into
their truck and drove off. Coop walked back into the dark
bar, adjusting his eyes and wondering how the woman was
going to react. He could never tell these things.
Inside, her glass was there, but her purse wasn’t so he
took his beer back to his table and finished it.
* * *
After a surprisingly thick and tender steak, Coop went
back to his small room, got out the map and called Spot at
“How’s the trip?” Spot asked.
“Going well.” Coop cradled the phone on his shoulder
and massaged his sore rear through his jeans. “How’s the
“I’ll bet you got a woman at every stop, you dog,” Spot
interrupted. Coop could hear the music in the background.
“Where are you?”
“Kansas. Cherryvale,” he said. “Have you seen the ca-
-,” Coop tried.
“Guess who stopped in last night and asked about you.”
Coop was about to guess it was Gabrielle, but Spot cut him
off. “Dr. Chang. She wanted to know how your trip is going
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 94
where you are, things like that. She says she’s still
waiting for her postcard.”
“Tell her I’ll send her one tomorrow.”
“Where are you headed? Everyone around here is dying
to know. Anna won’t leave me alone--Oh shit. She just
walked in. She’s been on pins and needles waiting for you
to call. Hold on.” Coop could hear Spot mumbling to Anna.
“Coop?” Anna’s accent and soft voice were a welcome
change from the hard road and the loud bike. “How are you?
Where are you?” Her enthusiasm brought a smile to Coop’s
“I’m fine. I’m in Kansas.”
“I’ve heard of that place. Watch out for the tornadoes
and the monkeys with wings.”
“I will,” he said.
“We all miss you,” she said. “We are all living very
carelessly through you, Coop.” She covered the mouthpiece,
and Coop heard more mumbling. “Sorry,” she said when she
returned. “Vi--care--e--us--lee. We are all living
vicariously through you.”
“Then tell everyone they’re having a blast,” Coop said.
She said goodbye and Spot returned to the line. “Some
guy named Dan called. He wants you to call him.
“How’s the ca--,” Coop tried.
“How’s Big Bertha?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 95
“Haven’t used her yet. I’m saving her for the big
drive. Has the ca--”
“Ah. The big drive. The world record drive. The mile
“That’s the one.” He felt like Spot was dodging his
question and tried again. “How’s the cat?”
“Hey, Coop. I’d better go. One of the doormen needs
“Hold it, Spot. How’s the cat?”
There was silence on the line. Then Spot said, “The
cat? I don’t know. I haven’t seen it for a week.”
“A week? What happened? Did you run out of food? Did
you give her the right kind?”
“Yes, the food is still there.”
“Did you change it everyday? You know she likes it
when you change it everyday. I goes stale.”
“I’ve done all that. I don’t know how else to tell
you, Coop. The cat’s gone.”
“Have you shaken the bag outside?” Coop asked.
“She’ll come if you do that.”
“Look, Coop,” Spot said. “I don’t know where the cat
is. But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll check for
road-kill on my way home tonight.”
“That’s very thoughtful, Spot.” Coop rubbed his eyes.
“Just do me a favor. Find the cat.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 96
Coop hung up the phone, crawled into bed and made a few
notes into his tape recorder. He had brought along a
Panasonic micro cassette to take notes. The plan was to
record the notes, label the cassettes, and when he amassed
enough, mail them back to his post office box in Gulf
Breeze. At the end of the trip, he would use the tapes to
write his book. A book about what, he didn’t know.
When the tape ran out, he labeled it, put in a small
case with five others and slid the tapes into an envelope.
He addressed it, stamped it, and lay it next to the
nightstand to mail in the morning. Coop dozed off wondering
why the cat would’ve left, and why he cared that it did.
* * *
Kathryn leaned against the headboard of the small bed
as the constant thoughts from the past month returned and
Kathryn, having no role model to follow, worried what kind
of mother she was going to be. It was a role for which she
had never prepared, nor had anyone’s practical experience
from which to draw. Her own mother had left when Kathryn
was in second grade.
Jacqui, as she preferred to be called, rather than
mother, was the only workaholic/alcoholic Kathryn had ever
On the weekends it was Bloody-Mary mornings, white wine
lunches, and cape cod afternoons. The only time she didn’t
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 97
drink was when she was at the office. She seldom made it
home before Kathryn’s bedtime, and when she did, she was
usually passed out on the couch by nine o’clock.
So it was a big surprise that Tuesday afternoon when
Jacqui came home before dark, bounded out of her
convertible Mercedes and ran awkwardly to the yard where
Kathryn was playing catch with her dad.
“I’ve got the best news,” Jacqui screamed. “It’s
Her dad slipped off the glove and took Kathryn’s small
hand. Together they walked to the fence that separated the
yard from the driveway. Across the fence, her mother stood
beaming. But no matter how hard her mother had worked in
the past, no matter how many nights Kathryn had tried to
stay awake, waiting for her mom to come home, she never
could have imagined she would hear what she was about to
hear. “What’s the good news?” her dad asked.
Jacqui could hardly contain herself, but this kind of
news was best discussed over cocktails. “Let’s go inside,”
she said. “I need to relax.” Relaxing was her euphemism
for having three of four drinks. And special occasions
called for Margaritas, so she made her family wait until she
had salted her blue rimmed glass, filled it with ice, Jose
Cuervo, and a splash of mix. Then, as she settled into the
corner of the couch, stirring her drink with her finger, she
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 98
gave her notice. “I’ve been given a promotion. Given?
What am I talking about. Hell, I earned it.”
Her dad leaned over the bar to offer a congratulatory
kiss on the cheek, but Jacqui turned away at the last
second. “Can you believe it?” she said to Kathryn.
“When does it go into effect?” Robert asked.
“As soon as we get there,” she said.
“Get where?” Kathryn asked.
“Seattle,” Jacqui replied. “The corporate off--.”
“Seattle?” her father interrupted. “We never talked
about moving to Seattle.”
“I didn’t think there was anything to talk about,” she
said. “I got a promotion.” She declared it as if it were
only factor to be taken into consideration.
“But I can’t go to Seattle,” he said. “And Kathryn’s
right in the middle of her school year. We just can’t pack
up and leave.”
“That’s fine,” she said. “Come at the end.” She took
a long hit of her drink and brushed the salt from the corner
of her mouth. “And you’re cases should be settled by then.
You can start with a new firm there.”
“Jesus, Jacqui, I have my own practice here. I just
can’t pack up and move.”
Jacqui took another sip. “I guess you have a decision
to make then.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 99
A week later, Kathryn felt her father’s thick hands on
her shoulders as she cried on the front porch, watching her
mother drive away.
Though she didn’t understand why until she was an
adult, life, from then on, seemed a little easier with fewer
emotionally taxing days. There was no more trying to wait
up for Jacqui to come home so Kathryn could tell her about
her report card, no more listening from another room as
Jacqui raged uncontrollably and incoherently at Kathryn’s
father, no more watching her pass out on the couch Saturday
and Sunday nights after drinking all day, no more wondering
if she was going to show up at her softball games.
But even knowing that her mother was two thousands
miles away didn’t stop Kathryn from searching the bleachers
every time she stepped up to bat. Like every other child
whose parents divorced, she prayed every night that her mom
would come home.
But she never saw her mother again after waving to her
from the porch. Jacqui did call occasionally, but mainly on
her birthdays--her own birthdays.
Kathryn’s father, a man who preferred to be called
daddy, was a prominent Atlanta attorney who always managed
to make time to see his daughter’s school plays, cheer her
on at her softball games, or help her with her homework.
Her father hardly dated and never remarried. His entire
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 100
focus was on trying to be a good father. He had cut his
work load in half, seeing only a few new clients whose cases
he knew he could win or settle. Through the years, it was
her father who stayed up with her through her first break
up, the time she lost her best friend to cancer, and the
many nights she couldn’t sleep, wondering what she did that
made her mother leave.
Her father was with her the first night she got her
period, and was as surprised as she was. He thought she
wouldn’t get it until her sixteenth birthday.
“You know,” she remembered him saying, “When you get
your drivers license.” But a week after she turned
thirteen, it arrived.
After having gone to bed early with stomach pains, she
awoke at two a.m., screaming at the sight of blood on her
sheets. Seconds later her father rushed in, stopping at the
doorway as if to assess the situation. She’d never forget
the way he stood there, filling up the doorway, a reassuring
look on his face. Instantly she knew she’d be all right.
A moment later, he had calmed her down with just a
touch, found a left-behind box of Tampax, and gave the best
instructions he could on how to use it. Once she was calm
and in bed again, her dad went an all night pharmacy and
picked up a fresh box so she could change it in the morning.
That was seventeen years ago, and every night rather
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 101
than praying for her mom to come home, she wished to have
one more day with her father. Two months after she went off
to Yale, her father, after just dropping off his first date
in years, was killed by a drunk driver.
The memory of her father, the picture permanently
etched in her mind was the way he looked at her the night at
thirteen. It was a look of total strength, reassurance, and
understanding. It was a look that made Kathryn know
everything was going to be fine, because he was there to
help her. She had never seen that look on any other man,
until tonight, when she saw it on Coop’s face.
She had waited for three days for her car to be fixed
and was now getting restless, ready to knock on Coop’s door
and ask for a ride to Arizona. So far she had done just
what the Jonas had told her. No ATMs, credit cards, and no
main roads. But now she was stuck and alone, afraid to wait
for her car any longer. The biker was her only hope.
She dug through her purse and pulled out a photo of a
crewcut blonde five year old wearing epaulets and insignias.
She stared at the picture, fixated on the child’s eyes,
until she drifted off to sleep.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 102
“...and that’s why I say the Mexican economy is taking
over this beautiful country that our grandfathers, our
fathers, our sons and ourselves have fought for. Is this
the tiny train of America’s moral conscious jumping track?
Have we beamed ourselves off the world for a day and got
“For example, today we have babies being taken away
from their loving mother’s arms and being sent to special
schools then indoctrinated in the covert services of the
government. These children--ten, twelve and fourteen year
olds are given fake papers and sent to Russia to go to
Russian schools and join the Russian military, all the while
covertly working for Uncle Sam. Man, I got to tell you,
that’s some kind of uncle who would do that to small
children. But praise God, it looks like enough of you
people have contacted your Congressmen and Senators, and now
a hearing will be conducted. Once the evil is exposed and
the judgement has been cast down, we can bring the children
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 103
home to mama and papa. We can put an end to the kidnapping
of babies. We’ll have to find something else to put on the
milk cartons now that government is giving back our
“Friends, I was very pleased that we could unite our
front and accomplish this sacred mission. It’s under the
rules of God and man that made America the great nation it
once was. But America, I think, is in decline, and if you
refuse to recognize that, maybe you should submit your
backside as a bicycle rack to perform some good social
“On a side note, in Birmingham Alabama, next weekend,
we will be conducting the ninth stage of our TACT training.
This module will be on High Speed Defensive Driving. Fly
in, or drive in. We will be providing the cars. Now, if
you can’t be with us in 3D, you can order the TACT training
videos for all 13 modules by calling 1-800-555-TACT. While
you’re on the phone, why not order the 365 days of food and
water. We don’t make any money on this, folks. We just try
to break even. I’ve got all the money I need to last me.
And let me tell you it’s not all dollars. When Armageddon
comes, U.S. dollars won’t do you much good. Gold is going
to be the national standard. Which reminds me, on
tomorrow’s broadcast we will have a gentleman here that will
be able to answer your questions on buying and selling gold.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 104
“Now for the years that I’ve been host of this show,
I’ve told you that the churches are charitable, and
donations are tax-deductible. And their doors should be
open. But sometimes, they’re not. Now, I give to Salvation
Army because throughout my life as a G.I., we didn’t have to
pay for the doughnuts when the Salvation Army was there.
Their doors were always open. They always had three hots
and a cot just for listening to the preacher. But at least
those churches had their arms out.
“Then, there’s the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford
Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and others just like
it. They are all multi-billion dollar organizations. All
charitable, totally tax-deductible. They give the rich
people that control them Cadillacs, boats, airplanes to fly
and fine homes to live in. That’s where your donations go--
to those rich people. And if you notice, you’ll see that
those are the same few people that are controlling the money
supply throughout the world. All part of the G-7. The
seven headed beast. Revelations. Let me read to you this
passage, if I may...,”
Dorthy Halston slipped her feet into her pink terry
cloth slippers and shuffled across the oak floor to the
bathroom, stifling a yawn along the way. The old house was
unusually cold for a South Dakota April morning, and she
wondered if the pilot light had gone out again. She exhaled
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 105
hoping she could see her breath, confirming her existence.
It was three-thirty-nine as always, when she got into the
shower and soaped up her gray hair and soft, wrinkled skin.
Dorthy put on her uniform, leaving the apron off for
now and went to the kitchen for coffee. She flipped on the
radio to General Wright. She loved listening to him. Her
second husband, Garrett, had started listening in the
mornings before opening the diner, and she reluctantly got
hooked. It was General Wright’s firm, but caring tone. One
that reminded her of her own grandfather’s. Though
sometimes the topics forayed into the unbelievable and
conspiratorial, she still liked to listen, and she only
believed about half of what he said. She had been around
long enough to know that the government is not always right.
And until recently, it was difficult to believe the IRS was
a criminal organization and paying taxes violated the
She had always excelled in school and though
embarrassed to admit it, was actually a certified genius.
But after marrying her first husband Winston, a professor
she had met after one of his lectures, she was content to
finish college and stay home. They were married for thirty
seven years and had one child who died at birth after a
complicated delivery. Because of the complications, Dorthy
also suffered the loss of any other children she may have
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 106
Though Winston was a great mathematician, he was not an
intelligent investor. And when he died of lung cancer, he
left Dorthy penniless. More out of need than love, she met
and married Garrett, the owner of a diner out by the
interstate. He had kept her safe, warm, and fed, though it
was mostly diner food. Dorthy fell in love with Garrett
over time and tried hard to be a good wife. They had almost
twelve years together, and two years ago, he died a truly
happy man. Those were his last words to her. “You made me
a truly happy man,” he said, and passed on. She sat at his
bed until they took him away, and now she sleeps on his side
and still dreams of him.
When she’s feeling better, she often jokes with the
other waitresses that with the average length of today’s
marriages, she could probable live long enough for one more.
Garrett had left her the diner. And though it was paid
for, he’d had a problem with back taxes and Dorthy inherited
those problems as well. Lately she could feel the IRS
circling above as she planned ways to pay off the debt.
Twice they levied her account taking over $600 each time.
It was everything she owned. If she sold the diner, she
could just cover the taxes. She still had some time to
formulate a plan. There’s always hope.
The only family Dorthy had now was the waitresses and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 107
the regulars at the diner. And if nothing changed, the rest
of her life would be as it is everyday: rise at three thirty
nine, open the diner, feed those that come by, then at nine
that night, go home. She did afford herself the luxury of
having Sundays off, but that day was mostly for catching up
on the housework.
The cowbell thunked overhead as she opened the glass
door and brought in the donuts Krispy Kreme had dropped off.
She flipped on the lights and locked the door behind her.
The place used to smell like old wood and bacon grease,
though she didn’t notice it anymore. She tied her apron and
began making coffee and putting the donuts under the glass
domes. Tiffany, her morning waitress, appeared at
the door shivering in her light blue uniform.
“I can’t believe how cold it is out there,” she said
after closing the door. “What is it? Twenty? Thirty
degrees?” She walked behind the counter and tied her apron.
“Twenty-seven,” Dorthy said. “It’s supposed to get to
“There’s no way. It’s too cold out there,” Tiffany
said and pulled a mug from underneath the counter. “You
“I’ll have some in two minutes when it is done,” she
said. Pouring the coffee before it was ready was one of her
pet peeves. “And so will you,” she added. She never
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 108
understood why people couldn’t wait for the coffee to
“Yes mam,” Tiffany said.
“How’d finals go yesterday?”
Tiffany stood by the coffee watching it drip. “Fine,”
she said. “I messed up one nail, though. I forgot the nail
strengthener on the middle finger. The right middle
finger.” Finally, with the pot full, Tiffany poured two
cups. “The middle finger. Can you believe it? I wonder
what the hell that means.” She handed a cup of coffee to
Dorthy. “I bet a shrink would have a field day with that.”
“It was probably just stress, Tiff. Don’t make too
much out of it.” She was always making too much out of
“Stress? I’m not the one that should be stressing.
Another guy from the IRS came by yesterday--this time with
some loser taking notes. I think he was taking inventory.”
“Damnit! There not supposed to come by if I’m not
here. Just because I’m an old lady, they think they can
push me around.”
“Can’t you call someone and complain?’
“About the IRS?” Dorthy shook her head. “No, hon. No
one controls the IRS.” She took her coffee and went into
the kitchen. She turned on the griddle and pulled the bacon
out of the fridge. “They can do whatever they want.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 109
General Wright says it’s been going on for so long that
everyone just thinks they’re within their jurisdiction.”
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” Tiffany said, laying a
pile of silverware on the counter.
“I don’t think ‘fair’ is a term they’re all too
familiar with, hon.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. “I’ve been
through a lot worse.” She nodded toward the door. “The
breakfast rush is here. Could you let Earl in?”
Earl, a tow truck driver who made it a routine to stop
by every morning for coffee took his usual seat at the
counter. Just as Dorthy poured him a cup, her hand started
shaking, spilling coffee all over Earl’s lap. It was all
she could do to set the coffee pot down on the counter.
Dorthy braced herself against the counter and tried to
control her breathing as Tiffany and Earl looked on. She
had experienced these overwhelming feelings--spells, she
called them. No doctor could explain the cause. No tests
showed any problems. The spells sometimes were an
overpowering feeling of aloneness. And fairly often, though
not lately, it was a sense of danger; an adrenaline rush
from pure life-or-death danger. And on more than one night,
she had awaken to the belief she were dead and alone.
Often, the spells felt like premonitions or strong
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 110
intuitions as today’s had been. She had sensed someone was
trying to kill her.
Then slowly, as always, the feeling subsided and she
put the coffee pot back on the burner and said, “Earl,
you’re not trying to kill me are you?”
“No ma’am,” he said. “But if you keep dumping coffee
in my lap, I’m going to have to find another diner.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 111
The alarm went off at seven. General Wright was
spouting off about the evils of the CIA, the FBI, the entire
body of Congress and the G7. Kathryn listened as callers
told of their horror stories of run-ins with the government
agencies. She made her way to the shower, then to
breakfast, wondering how she was going to spend the day in
this small town. One day in this place was one too many.
She was getting antsy. And suspicious. She needed to find
a way out of town. The hell with the car. She had to hitch
a ride with someone--anyone. The Senator had no idea where
she was. She was doing everything according to Jonas’ plan.
For now she was safe, but the longer she stayed in one
place, the more vulnerable she became.
Like the past three mornings, the restaurant was nearly
empty. The early sunlight shone on the dust and lingering
smoke, thickening the air and making the room look bigger
than it was. Betty was behind the counter standing over the
griddle, working on eggs. The short-haired biker, her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 112
savior from last night, sat in the far corner sipping coffee
and reading the paper.
She felt guilty about running off last on him night but
she couldn’t take the chance he wasn’t one of them. Guilt
wouldn’t kill her, but he might. Jonas told her these
people would shoot on sight, and if he had wanted her dead,
she would be. She approached him cautiously, as if he were
a wild animal. He had the one thing she needed most: a fast
way out of town. Kathryn had worn a pair of tight jeans,
black boots, and short leather jacket hoping to make herself
look like a biker chick.
He stopped reading the paper and stood as she spoke.
“I just wanted to thank you for last night,” Kathryn
said. “It’s Cooper. Right?”
“Coop,” he said, folding his paper and setting it
The man looked rugged enough to provide good
protection, even though he probably wasn’t too bright. His
eyes were indigo, his skin olive, and his dark hair was
cropped close to the scalp. A broad upturned scar on chin
smiled back at her and his right ear looked as if it had
been torn off in some wicked fight to the death.
“Bitten,” he said.
“The ear,” he said. “It was bitten.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 113
“I hadn’t noticed,” she said.
“Liar,” he said, motioning for her to sit.
“I don’t want to interrupt,” she said.
“It’s no interruption,” he said. “I could use some
conversation.” His voice was youthful and his articulation
perfect. “I was just reading about some nut who’s accusing
the government of some shady practices.” He shook his head.
“That guy on the radio, General something, says he has proof
of brain washing, kidnapping, and even, can you believe it,
She signaled to Betty for coffee. “From what I’ve read
about it, the Senate is actually investigating some of his
allegations.” She didn’t want to seem to quick to agree
with the General and be labeled a radical. She scooted her
chair in. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it’s true.”
“Me neither, actually,” Coop said.
When the coffee arrived, Kathryn said, “Tell me, Coop,
how did you end up in lovely Cherryvale? A woman, I’ll
Coop looked back into is coffee and gave a shrug of non
“I thought so,” Kathryn said. “You look like a guy
with woman problems. What happened? She run off with
another biker? Someone from your gang?”
“No,” he said, offering nothing more. “What about
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 114
She drew a deep breath, got into character, and
suddenly changed her tone and emotion as if a director had
yelled, “Action!” “My car broke down,” she whined. “And
it’s only a matter of time.” She flashed her green eyes at
him, knowing he’d melt.
“A matter of time before what? It gets it fixed?” he
“No,” she said dramatically. “Before...my soon-to-be
ex-husband finds me. I left him, and now he’s after me.”
She faked a sob into her napkin. “He used to...,” she
sobbed again. “He used to...He use to...do bad things to
“What kind of car?”
That wasn’t in the script. “An Escort. Why?”
“Ninety four,” she said. “What difference does that
“Did they say what’s wrong with it?”
“Something about...CV axles,” she said.
“When is it going to be ready?”
“In a few days. But I can’t wait that long.” She
tried a big convincing sob. “I have to get to Arizona,” she
said and looked over her wadded napkin, hoping her eyes
would sway him. “Before he kills me.” One more sob ought
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 115
to do it.
“Sorry to hear that,” Coop said.
“Maybe I could get a ride with you?” she said. Kathryn
knew bikers were a very proud breed and very protective of
their women. He had to say yes.
Coop drew back. “Isn’t there someone else you can
“No,” she said and tried another sob. “There is no one
“What about a bus station. There’s one in
Independence. I can give you a ride to the bus station.”
Kathryn blotted her summoned tears again. “I see you
haven’t ridden a bus lately. Do you know what kind of
people ride buses?” She grabbed his thick forearm. “I
promise I won’t be in the way.”
He rubbed his smiling chin. “I don’t know,” he said.
I’m kind of on a mission. I’m not going from Point A to
Point B, lady. I’m taking my time.” He sipped his coffee.
“I just don’t think it would be a good idea.”
“You said you could use the conversation,” she tried.
“It gets lonely on the road.”
“Alone doesn’t mean lonely,” he said. “Besides, that’s
the way I like it.”
Betty interrupted, “Here’s your check,” she said and
tore it from the pad. “I’ve got to go to the hotel for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 116
awhile. If you need more coffee help yourself. Just leave
the money on the table, hon.”
“Thanks,” Coop said.
As soon as Betty walked away, Kathryn started again.
“It’s only to Arizona and you can go whatever way you like,”
she said. “I like the back roads.”
“Look, I’m in no hurry to get anywhere. I have nowhere
to be, and no one waiting for me when I show up.”
“Either do I,” she said, pouring on the enthusiasm.
“See? We’ll make a great team.”
Kathryn could almost see his brain working, he was
thinking so hard. And after what looked like careful
consideration, he said, “Sorry, lady. Can’t help you.” He
fished his wallet from his jeans to pay the tab. “Good
luck, though.” He grabbed his leather jacket and headed for
“Wait,” she called. “I need you. You can’t--”
Coop never turned around. He just held up his hand as
if to dismiss her, and the biker walked through the dark
diner into the morning sun, leaving her alone and lonely.
* * *
Twenty minutes after he left the dramatic debutante in
the diner, Coop strapped his daypack onto the big bike and
secured Big Bertha. He hadn’t thought twice about taking
the woman. Well, maybe just twice. It was her eyes that
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 117
made him second guess himself. It was one of the most
attractive features about her.
There was no way though. He was on a quest to discover
America alone. He had traveled throughout most countries in
the world, speaking six languages as smoothly as a native.
But he had never climbed the Rockies, descended into the
Grand Canyon, or taken the Alaska Highway. It was as if he
knew every other culture better than his own. Even as a
child he had learned about the ways of lands other than his
own. For Europe, Africa, and Asia he had his classes to
prepare him. For America, he had only himself, and there
was no way he was going to lug around a woman on the run
from her ex while he learned about the country he so long
had risked his life for.
But then again, there were her eyes.
Coop had to make one last call to Dan before he checked
out of the hotel. Maybe Dan was going to level with him and
tell why he calling so much. Something was troubling Dan,
and Coop knew it.
“Look,” Dan began, his voice lowering. “I don’t want
to be an alarmist, okay?”
“It’s just that we’ve got some info that hints that the
Russians may have found you.”
“That’s impossible,” Coop said. “Unless one of our
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 118
“We’re still working on it,” he said. “We’re trying to
“Who do you think it is?”
“From the helicopter?”
“He escaped from prison a month ago. We have him on
video at arriving at Dulles.”
“Why is he’s after me?”
“You set him up.”
“That’s bullshit. He’s not after me. He could be
after anyone. Hell, he could be after you.”
“Keep telling yourself that, Coop, and you won’t be
around to finish that book. You’ve got to be ready.”
“How would he know where to find me?”
“Coop, it’s not like you’re in witness protection. You
know that. Besides,” Dan said, “I think he had some local
“Not sure yet. We’re still running that one down.”
Coop promised to call regularly for updates and hung up
He fastened the strap to his helmet and pushed the
electric start. The 1300 cubic centimeter engine rumbled
beneath him as he looked through the giant window of the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 119
diner. The Junior Leaguer was still sitting there, circling
her spoon in her coffee cup, staring, looking like a lost
puppy in the middle of traffic, wondering which way was
A blue Ford van pulled in and stopped in front of the
diner, as Coop slowly pulled away. He watched as two men in
suits exited through the rear of the van.
* * *
Kathryn kept stirring her coffee trying to decide what
to do next. She couldn’t wait on the car, though she had
already given the man a check for the two-fifty. She hadn’t
wanted to give the mechanic a check in the event her
accounts had been frozen, but he insisted, and Kathryn was
surprised when Check-Approv-All gave their blessing to her
transaction. It meant the people at the clinic still didn’t
know who she was. She couldn’t take the bus. She couldn’t
wait for the car. And she couldn’t call Jonas anymore. He
had received reports from someone on the inside that his
phone lines were being monitored, and it would be too easy
to trace her calls, pinpointing her location. From here she
was on her own with only her instincts to help her survive.
She took the spoon out of the coffee, tinked it twice
against the ceramic cup and looked out the window in time to
see two men in suits unsheathe their weapons and open fire
on the diner. She pushed over the table and threw herself
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 120
behind it. The sound of the guns and broken glass shattered
her eardrums. Her heart felt as if it was going to burst
through her chest, it was suddenly tight and painful. She
looked behind her to the counter. If she could make it to
there, she could get out the back.
Then, as suddenly as the shots began, they ended.
There was the sharp sound of glass fragments falling, one by
one to the ground. Then the muffled sound of glass
crunching under a pair of slowly approaching feet. The
crunching grew louder and louder until it was on her.
Kathryn huddled behind the table, shaking, too afraid to
look. She dug through her purse, frantically searching for
“Surprise,” the man said. By the trajectory of the
voice, she knew he was standing over her.
Kathryn slowly lifted her head to see the man pointing
the gun at her cheek. She closed her eyes.
“Consider yourself maximally demoted,” he said in a low
Kathryn heard the crack of the weapon, then felt the
table move, then the weight of the man on top of her. When
she opened her eyes, she was staring into the man’s dead
eyes and a small hole in the center of his forehead. She
heard glass crunching behind her under quick steps. The
crunching passed her, and she peered from behind the table
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 121
and saw the shadow of a man dart out the door. Kathryn
watched as he circled the van. In the daylight, she could
see it was Coop.
Another man, a clean cut white guy, keeping watch,
shaded his eyes as he tried to peer into the dark diner,
squinting in the bright sun. Coop crept low, stepping
gingerly, his knees bent as he came within arm’s length to
the dead man’s partner.
Kathryn knew what would happen next. Drop the gun.
Call the police. Take statements. Have the guy arrested.
So she was shocked, and somewhat relieved in a primal way,
when Coop, having slipped up to the man from behind, put the
barrel to the base of the skull and squeezed the trigger.
Kathryn saw the man’s clean-shaven, boyish face explode, his
body go limp, crumpling in a pile at Coop’s feet. There was
a startling thump against her table, and she saw what looked
like a dead, bloodied rodent, but what she knew was part of
the man’s skull. Coop knelt and picked up his shell
Kathryn froze again in fear as Coop ran in. He stood
over the dead man’s body and looked down at her, then to the
hole in floor where the table had been bolted.
“C’mon,” he said. “We gotta get out of here.” He
grabbed the one of the autographed helmets hanging from the
ceiling and handed it to her. “Wear this,” he said. “It’s
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 122
“But--” she tried.
“Let’s move it.” He offered her a hand up. “We’ve
only got a few minutes.” He led her through the back, to
the bike, climbed aboard and started it.
Kathryn slipped the Chiefs helmet over her short,
blonde hair and buttoned the chin strap. She threw her leg
over and reached her arms around his waist, holding tight.
He mumbled something, but she couldn’t understand what he
“What?” she said.
“You don’t have to--”
“What?” she said.
Coop shut off the engine, grabbed her hands and pried
them apart. “You don’t have to hold so tight. I do need to
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve never ridden on one of these
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Coop said and started
the engine again and pulled out into the empty road.
* * *
The shoot-out had nothing to do with her husband. He
knew that. The van was a rental. He had seen the papers on
the dash. These men were not Feds. Though they looked the
part, they were probably contractors--legalized hit men--
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 123
hired guns to solve problems.
Coop knew the route well. He had hired a couple of
contractors himself in the past to help with difficult jobs.
They were an integral part of the nations defense, he was
told. An integral part the righteous, pretentious,
murderous Intelligence Community. An integral part of the
reason Coop left the Community.
He was no saint. He accepted the killing. He had
accepted it a long time ago. It was the motives that
finally pushed him out. For the longest time he believed in
what he was doing. Then he found himself on a hillside in
Colombia staring through the scope at a drug lord’s house,
waiting for his target to come into view, the overweight,
balding Senor Menendez, head of the Menendez Cartel.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 124
At the end of Calle Bonita, sitting in the van crammed
with electronics, the young Treasury agent threw off his
headphones. “Jesus Christ, it’s been dead all fucking
morning. How much longer are we going to have to listen to
“Fishback says we don’t have enough for an indictment
yet,” Hornsby replied. “We’ve barely got enough for a
warrant,” the older one said. ”We’ve only been out here a
week, Zeke. Have some patience, rookie. In a few days
we’ll have some down time to hit the beach and drink a few
beers. I do need to work on my tan,” he said holding out
his arms, inspecting them.
Zeke laughed and said, “Now if I had said that to you,
I would have been brought up on some kind of discrimination
thing.” They had been working together for three months.
It was Zeke’s first assignment, and Fred’s last. Fred had
two more months to retirement. “I don’t see what Fishback
is so worried about,” Zeke said. “We’ve got a shitload on
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 125
this guy. It’s so fucking obvious he’s scamming his
investors. We got enough to nail him right now on a Ponzi,”
“Fishback wants everything by the book. He doesn’t
want Velour to walk on some technicality. The guy’s got so
much cash hoarded that if he flees to Brazil, there wouldn’t
be a damn thing we could do about it. Besides,” Fred added,
“you’ve got more tapes of his neighbor’s phone calls than
you do of Velour’s.”
“I couldn’t help it. With those damn cordless phones,
you never know what the hell you’re going to pick up.”
“If Mr. Sumner ever finds out we taped some of his
calls, he could sue,” Fred said.
“How’s he going to know? I’ve got them all right here
to destroy,” Zeke said, pointing to a box of tapes marked
Sumner/File 13. Zeke lifted the binocular and gazed out the
window. “I’ve never seen sand this white before,” he said.
“This area’s beautiful,” Fred said. “Mildred and me
thought about retiring down here.”
“It wouldn’t be too bad,” Zeke said shaking his head.
“If you didn’t have to look at that sorry bastard all day.”
He turned toward Fred and lowered the binocular. “You know
who I really feel sorry for,” he said.
“Who that?” asked Fred.
“That Sumner dude. He’s got to watch that fat ass
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 126
prance around in his Speedo on his deck, as his gold
medallion beats against his chest. I thought that medallion
shit ended with the seventies.”
“What the hell would you know about the seventies,
“I’ve seen VH-1,” he said. “And my parents were into
that. They had all that shit. Bell bottoms, eight-tracks,
Vegas, Pacers, white polyester suits--my dad even showed me
“The Pacer,” Fred said wistfully. “You could make a
five foot sub in the back seat of that car.”
A sudden movement in the mirror caught Zeke’s eye and
he felt for his weapon. A man approached. “Standby, Fred.
We got company....my side.” An older man with gray hair
knocked on the window. Zeke rolled down the window, never
taking his hand off the nine millimeter. “Can I help you?”
“When the hell are you going to hook up my cable,” the
man yelled. “I’ve been down here for two weeks and you
haven’t even bothered to hook it up yet. I walk by here
everyday and I see your truck and I don’t see you doing
shit. Doesn’t anybody at Cablemasters work? They don’t
treat you like this in Michigan. That’s where I’m from you
know. Have you ever been to Michigan?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 127
“Here,” he said and reached for his wallet. “I’ve got
“That’s not necessary.”
“I’m afraid it is,” he said, and before Zeke could
react, the old man put a hole through the young man’s
Fred scrambled out the back trying to find cover but as
he opened the door, was met with a twenty-five caliber
fitted with a silencer. The last sound he heard was the
metal click as the round spun from the barrel and found its
place between his eyes.
The old man gave the thumbs up to his partner and
climbed into the van. The partner shut the rear doors and
watched as the Cablemaster van with two dead feds sped off.
* * *
The loud doorbell awoke Spot from a sound sleep, and he
drowsily looked at his watch. “Shit,” he said and jumped
out of bed. It was almost noon and Anna was coming over for
lunch, and she hated it when he slept until noon. Usually
she’s exactly on time. That’s one of the things he liked--
from time to time--about her. She was always on time. Not
five minutes early, not five minutes late. But today she
was twenty minutes early.
With sleepy hair and crusty eyes, Spot opened the thick
wooden door. The bright light made his eyes water.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 128
“Did I wake you?”
The silhouette was too diminutive to be Anna. “Dr.
“It’s Susan, please. I’ve seen your truck in the
driveway for the past week, and I knew Coop was out of town.
So I thought I would stop by.” She slipped past him into
the empty, high ceiling room and looked around. “Maybe we
should take up a collection to get him some furniture,” she
“If Coop wanted it, he’d get it.”
“It’s a shame. He must not be able to afford it,” she
said as if she hadn’t heard Spot. “It is an expensive
“Oh, he can afford it,” he said, almost flaring his
chest, ready to stand up for his buddy.
“Right,” she said patronizingly.
“There’s not much he can’t afford, Susan.” So there,
he wanted to say. “What do you think, doctors can only make
the big bucks?”
“No. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound that way. It’s
just that I never see him work. What does he do?”
“He’s kind of retired. That’s about all I know.” Spot
had never told anyone more than that, and he wasn’t about
“Have you talked to him lately?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 129
“Yeah,” he said. But she wasn’t going to get any
information from him.
“Well, tell him he needs to buy some furniture,” she
said and walked outside to the deck. Spot followed her out.
“He’s got such a great view,” she said. A dolphin jumped
out of the water just past the sandbar. Velour exercised on
his deck. “Except you can see him.”
Spot looked at his watch. He had fifteen minutes to
get cleaned up before Anna came over. And if Chang were
there, Anna would be pissed. Not only did he sleep until
noon, but he’s got a strange girl over. “Is there anything
you needed?” Spot asked.
“Have you seen the cable truck at the end of the
street?” she asked with an air of intrigue. “It’s been
there for over a week now.”
“I haven’t noticed,” he lied. He was going to ask Coop
about it when he called. There were a few other things
going on that concerned him.
“Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I don’t think it’s
really a cable truck.”
“I think you’ve been watching too many spy movies,” he
said and looked at his watch again, hoping she would get the
“I think I’ll call the cable company and find out for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 130
“You do that,” Spot said, and again looked at his
watch. This time she noticed.
“Got to be somewhere?”
“My fiancé is coming over at noon,” he said and
shrugged his shoulders as if to apologize. “I’ve got a lot
“I’ll let myself out then.” She turned and walked
inside. “Mind if I use your bathroom?”
“Help yourself,” he said and went to the kitchen to
start straightening up. Anna hated a messy house.
Chang was still in the head when the doorbell rang.
Spot opened the door, and Anna stood there holding a bottle
of wine. “Are you hungry?” She walked in the house and
looked around. It was the first time she had been there.
“Is he ever going to buy any furniture?” she said.
“That’s what I asked him,” a woman’s voice called from
the next room.
“Who’s she, Spot?” Anna demanded.
“That’s Dr. Chang. She lives across the street. She
had to use the bathroom.”
“Couldn’t hold it until you got home, sweetie?” Anna
“My systems backed up,” Dr. Chang said.
“Sounds like a personal problem to me,” Anna said.
Dr. Chang walked slowly into the room, trying to be
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 131
sultry, pissing Anna off even more. “I’ll be going now,”
she said and walked through the opened door. “Nice to meet
Spot said goodbye, and Anna did not.
“I don’t trust her, honey.” Anna set the wine in the
fridge. “I trust her not one bit.”
“Grab me a beer while you’re in there.”
“How long have you been awake?” she asked.
“It’s past noon,” he protested. She hated when he
drank after just waking up and always gave him shit about
“How about I make you some coffee instead?”
“A beer will do fine, thanks.”
She moved to the empty cabinets for something to fix
for lunch. “Does he ever eat? He’s got no food.”
“I think there’s a can of tuna fish in there.”
“I don’t see it,” she said and shut the cabinet a
little too hard. “All I see is a coffee maker, a chair and
a TV. Are you sure someone lives here?”
Spot looked around the empty room. “He’s just not into
material things. I set the TV up myself,” he said proudly.
She walked out to the deck and stood against the rail.
Spot followed and stood behind her, lowering his chin to
her shoulder. “What if we go out for lunch,” he said. “We
can ride bikes to the boardwalk.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 132
She turned within the confines of his arms. “Sounds
like fun. We can save the wine for later. My boss gave me
the day off.”
“What a coincidence. So did mine.”
They took a couple of old beach cruisers Coop had in
the garage and as they passed the end of the street, Spot
noticed the Cablemasters truck was gone.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 133
The high sun warmed Coop inside the jacket, as the cool
air chilled what little skin was exposed. It was a fresh,
alive feeling, and one of the reasons he bought the Harley.
He stole a glance over his shoulder and saw Kathryn’s tiny
head beneath the huge helmet, dancing with the rhythm of the
uneven pavement. It reminded him of the little dolls with
the oversized heads bobbing in the back windows of cars,
making her look more like a Pee Wee Leaguer that a Junior
Leaguer. It would’ve been great ride alone, but then there
wouldn’t have been the pretty debutante snuggled behind him
hugging his waist so tightly, needing him so much. And
every now and then, especially lately, it felt good to be
Medicine Lodge was like any other small town. A row of
shops lined the main street, a few cars were parked in the
angled spaces, and a few citizens ducked in and out of the
drug store, appliance store, and department store. Coop
found a Texaco across the street from a drug store. He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 134
leaned the bike into the grimy, gray gas station and stopped
next to the pumps. Without saying a word, Kathryn set her
helmet on the seat and ran to the bathroom. Coop filled the
tank and found a pay phone. A green Chevy pick-up crept by
while Coop called home.
After four rings the answering machine came on. “Spot,
it’s Coop. If you’re there, pick up.” He waited a moment,
then hung up the phone. He tried the bar and was told Spot
was off today. A red sedan passed in front of the gas
station. He tried his friend, Dan at the FBI.
“Special Agent Banister,” the man said. Coop always
thought it was funny the phony way they answered the phone.
Banister was a guy Coop had been drunk with, and Coop could
remember times they were so hammered, Banister couldn’t even
pronounce his own name. And now he sounded like some kind
of government robot. Which probably wasn’t too far from the
“Special Agent Banister,” Coop said in an equally
authoritative voice as he rubbed his ring finger.
“Yes,” Banister said and coughed so hard it hurt Coop’s
“This is Special Agent Green.”
“Do you have your super secret decoder ring on? I am
about to send you a top secret communiqué?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 135
There was a pause. Then, “Yes. It is online and
“Please verify the model, sir. For proper protocol, I
need to know if your unit is the Lucky Charms model or the
Cap’n Crunch version?”
“The Crunch version.” His tone and air were like that
of an expert witness. “The bureau deleted the Charms model
from inventory years ago. Something about a striking
resemblance between the little fairy and J. Edgar.”
“I must’ve missed that memo,” Coop said. “Although now
that you mentioned it, he does look a little queer.”
“So does the leprechaun,” Banister said mixing his
coughing with a laugh.
“Well, Special Agent Banister, do you think you could
take time out of your busy schedule of pushing those so-very
important papers to help me out?”
“Sure, Coop. I’m glad you called,” Dan said. “I’ve
left several messages at your house.” He let out a painful
cough. “Who, or what, the hell is a Spot?”
“He’s a friend. He’s watching my house. Look, I need
to find out the status on the Dmitri Chernyshev information?
Any validity to the intel?”
“That’s why I was calling. Could you hold?” He
sometimes did that when he was about to have a massive cough
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 136
Coop stood in the phone booth, taking in the old town.
A lady came out of the drug store dragging her teenager by
the ear as the kid’s friends watched from inside. The
sheriff’s car passed by twice, the second time very slowly.
Coop was in no mood for the obligatory harassment of out of
town biker by the local law enforcement.
Banister came back on the line. “Here we go. I got
the file right here. Looks like he came into Dulles on a
flight from Brussels two days ago. Airport security cameras
picked him up.” Banister paused. “When was the last time
you saw him?”
“That night in the helicopter just before he jumped
“He’s changed a lot. His hair’s completely gray, and
he’s only forty.”
“Russian prisons can do that.”
Banister coughed. “Are you ready for the good news?
He’s definitely after you, Coop. We think his wife may be
“No shit?” Coop said. “I didn’t know he was married.”
“Neither did we. But prison records indicate a woman
visited him every month.”
“Got a name?”
“We’re still trying to confirm it, but we think it’s
the Chinese doctor that lives across the street.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 137
“That’s crap,” Coop said.
“Coop, she was hanging all over him at Spot’s bar,” he
Coop didn’t want to believe it. Just when he thought
he could stop being cynical and suspicious, shit like this
happens. “Are you sure it’s her?”
“She’s only been there for a few months, Coop. Plenty
of time to get to know your routines, habits, anything to
make you an easy target,” he said. “But you dropped
everything and left town. And they weren’t expecting that.”
Coop remembered her request for post cards, and it
began to make sense. “Run a check on a Dr. Susan Chang.
She’s a physician at Baptist Hospital.” He spouted the
order as if he were now the robot. It came without thought.
Then the thoughts came all at once. She had been to his
house. She knew about the trip. She had even tried to get
into bed with him.
“Now, Coop, this is where it turns bad. Two days ago,
on the beach, two Treasury agents were capped and their
bodies dumped in the dunes along the National Seashore.
They were found this morning by some kid and his dog.”
“Why Treasury agents?”
Banister paused, then spoke in a hushed tone. “The
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 138
agents were outside your house on a separate job.”
“My house? Why mine?”
“It had nothing to do with you. They were
investigating some guy named Velour about a Ponzi scheme.”
“Dmitri must have thought they were there for him,”
“Where’s Dmitri now?”
“We don’t know. Spot’s was the last place we saw him.
So keep on your toes and maintain vigilance, my friend. If
there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to call...someone
“Hey, I’m just trying to cheer you up.”
“Keep trying,” Coop said, and hung up the phone as
Banister went into a coughing fit.
Kathryn was at the bike when Coop returned from the
restroom. “Doing okay?” he asked softly. She looked like
she’d been sick.
“I’m all right,” she said.
“Can I get you anything?”
“I suddenly have room for lunch.” She managed a smile.
“I just keep seeing that guy’s head.”
He pointed to the drug store across the street. The
sign on the window said it had a lunch counter. “C’mon,” he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 139
said. “These places have the best fries.”
They sat at in a turquoise booth patched with silver
duct tape and ordered sandwiches from stained menus. A
transient sat at the counter smoking Marlboros and eating
microwave burritos. The back door was behind them, the
kitchen to the right. Coop sat facing the front door. The
teenagers he had seen through the window were hanging around
the magazine rack, flipping through Popular Science while
trying to sneak a peek at the Playboys.
When Kathryn finally spoke it was a whisper. “What do
we do now?”
He had wanted her to mention it first. “Before we do
anything, you’re going to level with me,” he said. “Unless
your ex-husband is a professional hit man, I’m going to have
a hard time believing that was a domestic dispute.” He
watched her eyes, the black drips on the green iris.
“They work--worked for him.”
“What the hell happened that would make him hire two
guys to kill you? Fold his underwear wrong?”
“No,” she said quickly. “He’s with the mob.”
The first answer is never the truth. She had answered
too fast and given too obvious an answer. He watched her
body language as she spoke. It was a technique he had
learned from the FBI. Sure her story could have been
plausible but her body language told him she was lying.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 140
“The mob,” he said, nodding.
“Yes. The mob.” She was so unconvincing it was
“The Bambinos?”, he asked. “I’ve heard of them.
They’re deadly.” Coop started to get up. “I think I’m in
over my head here, lady. Good luck,” he said and stood.
“No. Wait,” she said and grabbed his arm, and Coop
returned to his seat. “You can’t go,” she said.
Coop settled on to the bench seat, catching his jeans
on the upturned corner of a piece of tape. “How long were
“Ten years,” she said. Again, it was a little too
“I knew you were trouble the moment I met you,” he
said. “I should’ve known with your blonde hair, green eyes,
and southern drawl, you were the typical mob wife.” Coop
wondered if she knew how hard he was trying not to bust out
laughing. As the waitress left the food, he leaned back in
his seat. He picked up a french-fry and continued. “You
know what I think?” he said, pointing the fry at her and
shaking it. “I think you’re full of shit.” He grabbed her
left hand and held it up. “You’re not even married.
Probably never were.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 141
She tried to jerk away, but he held tight. “Why?” she
asked. “Because I don’t have my ring on?” She relaxed her
hand. “Maybe I took it off, Sherlock.”
“It’s not the ring. It’s the ring mark. Or lack
thereof,” he said. “No tan line, no dirt line, no smoothing
of the skin. After wearing a ring, no matter how thin the
band, the skin at your age would take a long time to get
back to normal.” The logic sounded good to him.
Verisimilitude. It was a practice that came easy to him.
She jerked again, and he let her have her hand back. “You
really want to know what I think?” he said.
“What,” she said and took a big bite of her sandwich.
“I think you’ve stumbled onto something, and you’re in
over your head. And judging from the two guys back there,
it looks like you’re way the hell out of your league.”
“Boy! You are a genius,” she said. “Learn to reason
like that in prison?” Talking with her mouth full of gooey
American cheese and white bread mildly diminished her Junior
“You really pissed someone off--I’m thinking someone
high in the government--and they’re mad enough to maximally
She stopped in mid-chew. “That’s what he said right
“I thought so,” Coop said. “It’s a euphemism. But by
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 142
the looks of it, either you’re not that important, or they
couldn’t get anyone else except a couple of FNGs.”
“Fucking new guys.”
“How do you know they’re new?” she asked.
“The idiots wore suits, like they were still collecting
that twice a month paycheck, trying to make the country safe
for you and me.”
“You seem to know a lot about this,” she said as she
leaned back as if to distance herself as much as possible
He shrugged his shoulders to appear as innocuous as
possible. “I’ve seen the X Files,” he said.
“What do we do now?” she asked.
“We?” Coop asked incredulously. “I don’t know about
you, but I’m going to finish my delicious grilled cheese
sandwich and tasty fries and then take to the open road.
Then I am going to find a huge hole into which I am going to
hit a dozen golf balls.”
“What about me,” she said. “I still--,”
“Hold on, now,” Coop said. “I’ve done my job. I
played the hero once today.” He ate another fry. “My
“That’s it?” she said. “You’re going to leave me? In
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 143
“You got it,” Coop said.
“Maybe,” Coop began. “If you tell me what’s going on,
I’m might let you ride along,” he said. “And I mean the
truth this time.”
“I told you the truth.”
“Very well,” Coop said and ate another fry. A smile of
deep satisfaction stretched across his face. “I told you
this place had the best fries.” He ate another. “Look, if
you need some money, I can loan you a little. Unlike you,”
he said, pushing the taunting to the limits, “I can use my
credit card.” He ate another fry. “Let me know.”
* * *
Kathryn sat silently wondering if she should tell him
the truth; the truth about the school, the truth about her
son, the truth about Senator McAlpin. She looked at her
plate and then to Coop. His chin was smiling at her. No
matter how serious he was on the inside, his chin always had
a small smile across it and it wasn’t that altogether
She pushed her plate away, took a breath as if she
jumping into deep water, and summoned the little trust she
had left for people. “You’re right. I’m not married.
Never have been. And I did piss some people off,” she said.
The confession made the weight of her problems lighter, as
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 144
if someone else was there to help shoulder the load. She
couldn’t tell him everything. Some weight she’d have to
carry on her own. “And they were politicians. One in
“A Senator. Senator McAlpin.”
“What’d you do?”
“I broke into a clinic he owns and stole some files.”
“Because...,” Coop led.
“Because I think he kidnapped my son.”
Coop leaned back in his seat. “Why would a Senator
kidnap your son?”
“I can’t tell you,” she said.
“What kind of files did you take?” he asked.
“I can’t tell you that either,” she said. “And you
wouldn’t believe me if I did tell you.”
“And you want me to help you kidnap him back?”
“I don’t have to kidnap him. I just have to pick him
up from school,” she said trying to make sound so very
innocent like any other mother picking up any other child.
“I just need a ride. That’s all.”
“You have proof that this boy is, in fact, your son?”
She shook her head. “The only proof I can offer is my
son. You’ll know he’s mine when you see him.”
“Why not go to the police? They like kidnappings.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 145
“They wouldn’t believe me,” she said.
“And I should?”
“You have to,” she pleaded. “My son’s life’s at
Coop stared at his plate. In the harsh fluorescent
light reflecting from the shiny floors of the drug store,
Kathryn noticed the scar on his chin told more about him
than he could ever verbalize. The blue eyes were very
soothing, his face welcoming. But behind the warm eyes and
the smiling chin, was a killer. She had seen it. She had
seen him in action. He stalked his prey and killed with the
precision and mindlessness of a machine. But for the first
time since she began the trip, she felt safe.
“Look,” she said. “I can’t tell you everything. But I
can tell you I’m not crazy. My son is in terrible danger,
and I have to get him back.”
Coop began to look everywhere but at her. He sat
silent for a moment.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” she said.
He smiled. “And you’re in a position to deal? The way
I see it,” Coop began. “You want me to give you a ride to
Arizona to pick up your son. And from you, I want....let’s
see,” he said, rubbing his chin, staring off in the
distance. “Nope. Can’t think of anything I want from you.”
He wiped the ketchup off his fingers. He tossed the napkin
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 146
in his plate and scooted out of the seat. “All I want is to
see the Grand Canyon.”
She grabbed his hand as he stood. “It’ll take your
mind off your woman problems.”
“Who said I wanted to take my mind off her?”
“C’mon,” she said. “It’ll make a great story,” she
said. “You could put it in your book.”
“How do I know you’re not going to get me killed?”
“I swear it’ll be easy,” she said knowing he was coming
around. “You don’t even have to go inside. I just have to
show them I’m his mother, and they’ll turn him over.”
“These guys aren’t playing around,” he said. “What if
you panic and get me killed?”
“Panic?” she scoffed. “Me? I’ve been through so much
I know how to remain cool under any kind of pressure. You
can count on that.”
“It did start out a bit exciting,” he said as if he was
thinking it over. “It would make a great first chapter.”
“Is it a deal?” she asked.
Coop thought for a moment. “First, I need to know if
you are in any kind of legal trouble. Are the cops after
“No. Not that I know of,” she said.
“Good. Because one just walked in.”
Kathryn turned in her seat to see the teenage cop
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 147
walking down the aisle. His holster was unsnapped and his
hand was hovering above his pistol. She looked to Coop for
“It’s okay,” he said. “Just relax. If he comes over,
let me talk to him.”
Kathryn was trembling. She could hear the footsteps
get closer. She heard them stop just behind her. Coop’s
eyes watched the officer. She tried to watch through the
reflection in his eyes.
“It’s okay,” he whispered, without moving his lips.
“Relax. Don’t turn around.”
Kathryn was shaking so badly she had to sit on her
hands. She tried her best to appear calm and in control but
she wanted to scream and run. And if it weren’t for Cooper,
she probably would have.
“Freeze!” the cop yelled.
Kathryn froze. She watched Coop.
“Put your hands on top of your head,” the cop said.
Kathryn waited for Coop to move first.
“Do it!” the cop screamed.
She gave up waiting for Coop. She threw her hands on
top of her head, like she had seen the people do on COPS.
Coop still sat there.
“All right stand up,” the cop said.
Kathryn did as she was told and scooted out of the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 148
bench making sure she had her hands firmly on top of her
head. But as Coop sat there with a huge gloating smile, she
realized she had been set up.
While standing in the drug store lunch counter with her
hands on her head waiting to be cuffed and taken away as the
man she trusted sat there, it all made sense. He must have
called the police when she was in the bathroom at the gas
station. He offered to buy her lunch, then sat with her
long enough to get her confession. How could she have been
so stupid? He probably had everything on tape. The comment
about the fries was the signal that he had the confession.
That’s what brought the cops in.
She saw the exit sign over the back door and planned
her escape. She couldn’t even look at Cooper anymore. He
was laughing at her.
How could she have been so naive? Jonas had told her
to be careful who she trusted. And above all, she was never
to tell anyone about the clinic, and that was the first
directive she had broken. As she stood there waiting for
the cold steel of the handcuffs, her blood and adrenaline
rushed through her body. She summoned the courage to run.
Then just before she bolted, she felt someone tap on
her shoulder. “Mam?” the young voice said.
Kathryn craned her neck to see the officer standing
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 149
“I was talking this guy,” the young cop said, pointing
to the disheveled man at the counter. “He stole some bean
burritos and cigarettes from the Happy Seven Quick Mart.”
“Allegedly,” the bum shouted through a mouth full of
Kathryn slowly lowered her hands and turned around to
face the cop. “You mean you’re not after me?” she said.
She must have sounded disappointed because the cop
said, “If you want I can arrest you. I don’t know what for
“How about for possession of an overactive imagination
bordering on paranoia?” Coop said from the booth and began
laughing--a laugh too shrilly and too juvenile to belong to
a man of his build. “Come on honey, sit down,” he said as
he wiped the corner of an eye. “Let this man do his job.”
Coop stood up and extended his hand to the rookie. “I have
to apologize for my fiancé. She watches a lot of TV.” Coop
helped her back into the bench. “Where’s your medication?”
he whispered loud enough for the cop to hear, but soft
enough so that the cop didn’t think he was supposed to.
“I think it’s in my purse,” Kathryn said, playing
along, trying to appear more collected than she was. She
dug through her purse.
“Thank you, officer,” Coop said and sat down. He
waited for the cop to leave the building before he said
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 150
anything. “You’re the coolest,” he said and started
laughing his high pitched, contagious laugh, one that
infected Kathryn. In a moment Kathryn found herself
laughing like she hadn’t laughed in five years.
* * *
The young cop opened the rear door of the car and
helped the suspect in. His partner, Filo, sat in the front
playing with his kid’s Game Boy.
“The strangest thing happened back there, Filo,” the
young cop said as he drove the cruiser around the corner to
“What’s that, Earnest?” Filo said, crinkling his face,
his neck straining, his eyes searching the car.
“Well, see, as I was collaring the dirtbag...,”
“No. I mean what the hell’s that? What stinks?”
“I don’t know. Must be him,” Earnest said pointing to
the back. “He’s the one that stole the burritos.”
Filo grunted, and Earnest continued. “Anyway, this
woman, she stands up and put her hands on top of her head,
like I was cuffing her. Ever seen that?”
“Why would she do something like that?” Earnest said
and pulled into a parking space in front of their office.
“Beats me,” Filo said.
“I know why,” the vagrant said from the back seat.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 151
“Shut the hell up,” Filo said.
“If you let me go I’ll tell you. I know where they
headed. I heard ‘em.”
“The only thing you heard,” Filo said, “was them voices
in your head telling you to “Steal the burritos, Steal the
“Steal it, and you will fart,” the vagrant added.
* * *
“God, that was close,” Kathryn said, her pulse slowly
returning to normal.
“I wouldn’t worry about the police being after us for
what happened at the restaurant.”
“Why not?” she whispered. “You killed two men.”
“Once the bodies are identified,” Coop said, “the Feds
are going to step in and take over the investigation and
sweep it under the rug.” Coop took a sip of Diet Coke and
continued. “Contractors are about the only people in the
world you can demote without having to worry about an
investigation,” he said. “The government couldn’t give a
damn about them. They were hired to do a job and failed.”
He ate another french-fry. “Now, we have to assume the
Senator knows your coming after your son,” Coop said.
“Right,” she said.
“And he knows who you are.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 152
“As I see it, they’ll be waiting for us coming in or
heading out from the school. I don’t think they’ll try
anything on school grounds,” he said. “Too many kids could
“You’re right,” she said.
“I just want to stop at the Grand Canyon when we’re
“The Grand Canyon? Why?”
“Why? Because I’ve never been there before.”
“You’ve never been there before? I thought everybody
and their brother had been there...twice.”
“I haven’t,” he said.
“Well, I don’t see what the big deal is. You’re not
missing anything. It’s just a hole.” She leaned over her
soda. Her eyes focused on him as she sipped. “Just one big
hole,” she said. For a quick moment, she thought she saw
some kind of return from his eyes. A small, ever-so-slight
exchange of warmth or desire. Perhaps there was a something
buried deep beneath the leather jacket and the muscled
Coop laid a ten on the table. “C’mon,” he said. “I
want to put some distance between us and Kansas.”
“I want to pick up a few things first,” she said.
Kathryn stopped at the book rack and selected a few
paperbacks, holding them so Coop couldn’t see the titles.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 153
But Coop knew what they were. Gabrielle had a weakness for
“Romance novels?” Coop chided. “You?”
“Never trust anyone without a vice,” she replied.
Then as Kathryn wedged the books into her purse, Coop
caught a glimpse of the titles: 101 Ways to be a Great Mom,
and One Parent; Twice the Love.
After a quick pit stop, they were rumbling past the
police station as the young cop they had seen earlier was
getting into his car with his partner. Kathryn watched
Coop’s speedometer as he kept it under fifty going through
the small town. She couldn’t decide if he was going too
fast of too slow. She was in a state of anxiety, caught
between the excitement of seeing her son for the first time
and the painful anticipation of what she was going to have
to do to get him. Kathryn had lied to her new partner. She
knew she wasn’t going to be just like any other mother
picking up any other kid. It wasn’t going to be like that
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 154
The gray and white American Exterminators van hummed
along the straight, smooth pavement of route 169 just north
of South Coffeyville, Oklahoma, and south of Coffeyville,
Kansas. It was a good thing, too, because after driving for
sixteen hours, Dmitri Chernyshev could use some coffee.
Though he was drowsy, he was still happy--as happy as he’d
let himself be. He checked his rearview mirror. No one was
Everything was falling into place. He had Cooper
Sumner on the run. He had a new van with plenty of
electronics in it, and had even christened it with a new
name. And in his pocket, bulging against his lean bottom,
he had an authentic U.S. Treasury badge to get him in and
out of wherever he wanted to go. Everything was perfect.
Now if he could only find a good radio station. He played
with the dial as he steered the van down the empty road to
Cherryvale and settled on the ramblings of some preacher-
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 155
He had wanted to listen to the tapes of Cooper Sumner’s
conversation before dumping the bodies. But the Amerikans
had crammed so much electronics into the van that, unless he
wanted to move the bodies into the front seat while he
worked, he had to get rid of them first. So he found a nice
spot along a deserted stretch of beach with plenty of scrub
bushes, and tumbled the bodies out of the van and into the
sand, hiding them in a patch of palmettos.
Then after stopping at one of the thousand Quick Sign
shops for a magnetic sign to cover the Cablemasters logo,
Dmitri found a quiet neighborhood and pulled onto a side
street and parked. The van had all new, high tech
equipment. Not like the old electronics he had used when he
was forced to serve in the Russian Army. After an hour of
frustration, he figured out how to work the new gear.
For hours he listened to tapes of Coop’s phone calls.
Cooper Sumner had a boring life with boring conversations.
Except for one. It was a tape of Cooper Sumner telling
Chang his plans. He said that he was heading to the Grand
Canyon and was going write a book. How sweet. And Chang
had confirmed that he was in Cherryvale, Kansas.
Dmitri looked up from the radio dial just in time to
read the sign welcoming him to Cherryvale. The preaching of
General Wright still resonated through the van, and Dmitri
flipped off the radio. He could only stand so much.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 156
As he passed the Torch Lounge and Family Restaurant,
there were two police cars in front. He noticed the
shattered glass, drove behind the hotel and parked. A fed
in an exterminator’s van would be hard to explain.
He took one of the navy blue windbreakers with the bold
yellow US TREASURY on the back, zipped it up and approached
the local sheriff. He took one look at the sheriff and knew
this was going to be fun.
Dmitri flashed the badge, though the jacket was
probably enough for the sheriff. “Any other federal
officers here, Sheriff?” His English was impeccable. What
little accent he had made him sound like he was from one of
the ethnic communities in the upper mid west.
“Why are the feds involved?” the sheriff said
offering his hand. He was skinny and his uniform was too
baggy. It looked like he had lost a lot of weight in a
short period of time. He looked weak.
“Tell you in a minute. What happened here? Any ID on
“None. The van’s rented to a John Smith. I think it
was a hold up. The restaurant owner is over there,” the
sheriff said pointing a bony finger to the lady with the red
bow-tie standing inside the windowless cafe. “She said she
didn’t see a thing.”
What the hell is a “thang?” Dmitri wanted to ask but
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 157
decided not to. He heard the sheriff call to him as he
walked away, but Dmitri ignored him.
The woman was crying when he approached. He hated
dealing with crying women. He hated dealing with women
altogether. They’re so damn emotional. He handed the woman
a napkin from one of the tables. He saw the nametag. “It’s
only glass, Betty,” he said with a warm smile and hugged her
with one arm. “You’ll be fine. I’ll have one of our
federal insurance adjusters in here in a matter of moments
as soon as we finish. In a couple of days it’ll be as good
She took the napkin and blotted her tears. “I suppose
you’re right. It just looks so terrible. I’ve had this
place for thirty years and it’s just sad. This is my only
source of income. What am I going to do?”
“Don’t worry about that,” he said and stroked her back.
“You see, Betty, because your fine restaurant was involved
in a federal incident, you’ll receive loss of income
compensation.” He took out his notepad and started writing
as he looked around the room. “Looks like a hotel and
restaurant this size would clear about five, maybe ten grand
a month. Right?”
“No sir. I’m lucky to get a thousand a month.”
“Betty,” he said placing a hand on each of her
shoulders and staring her in her eyes. “It looks like a
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 158
hotel and restaurant this size would clear about five, maybe
ten grand a month. Right?”
In more of a question, she replied “Ten?”
In big letters that she could see, he wrote down
‘Betty-10,000 big ones!’ She was his. “Now, I need to ask
you some questions.” He flipped to a new page in the
notebook. “Who was in here today? Was there a tall man.
Short brown hair. Mid thirties?”
“Yes. He had a funny name.”
Dmitri showed her a picture and she confirmed it was
Cooper. “Was he with anyone?”
“No. But I saw him talking to the other guest--the
woman--last night and then this morning. But they weren’t
“Do you know who the woman was?”
“It was...Mrs. Tellman, from Boston.”
“But they weren’t traveling together? You sure?”
“Positive. He got in last night before dinner. I was
kind of skeptical of him being on a motorcycle and all. You
know how those bikers are. Nothing but trouble.” She
looked around the room and opened her arms wide. “See what
I mean?” She spun slowly in a tight circle. “You think he
did it, don’t you? I thought he was bad news the minute I
laid eyes on him. What did he do that you’re after him?”
Dmitri almost smiled. Everyone is so quick to agree
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 159
with the police. It’s as if they have no mind of their own.
He ignored her question, sealing his role of authority.
“Do you know which way he went?”
“I think he went that way,” she said pointing over her
shoulder. “Toward Independence.”
Dmitri looked around the restaurant. “Have you noticed
“No money or anything like that. But--and this is odd-
-I’m missing one of my Chiefs helmets; my Jan Stenerud. I
had it up there on the wall. And now it’s gone.”
“Have you mentioned this to anyone else?”
“Do me a favor, will you? Don’t...” Dmitri stroked
his chin as he were hopelessly troubled.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He shook his head. This was his favorite part.
“Nothing,” he said. “I just had a passing idea, but,” he
held up his hands as if in defense, “I don’t want you to get
involved. It’s too much to ask of a citizen.”
“What’s too much to ask?” she asked.
Again, he held her shoulders and looked her in the
eyes. “You see Betty, I’ve been after this guy for years.
And every time I get close, the local sheriffs always mess
“Like The Fugitive?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 160
“Exactly,” he said without really knowing what the hell
the hick was talking about.
“What did he do?”
Dmitri took a deep breath, inhaling loudly for effect.
“He killed my wife, Betty. My wife and my child.” He wiped
a pretend tear from his eye with the back of his wrist. “So
you see you have to help me. You have kids of you own, I’m
“Well imagine if they were murdered and you knew who
did it but the police kept fouling the trail.”
“But Harvey’s a good cop. Been Sheriff here for
“I’m sure he’s a great sheriff. It’s not him
personally.” With his hands still on her shoulders, he
said, “It’s the whole local versus federal thing. You
understand, don’t you? You’ve seen the movies.”
“Well, yeah. I guess.” She looked at his feet. “What
do you need me to do?”
“I need you to tell the cops you saw nothing. That you
had no idea who caused this. Can you do that for me? For
Isaiah, my murdered son?” The biblical names always worked
for these Christians.
“I can do it,” she said proudly as if she were
volunteering to go on some kind of secret mission.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 161
“I knew you could,” he said and pulled her in for a
tight hug. “God bless you,” he said and left her standing
there. He walked back to the American Exterminator van. He
smiled. That was him: The American Exterminator.
But after what Cooper Sumner did to him, you couldn’t
blame him. He spent seven years in a filthy underground
Minsk prison because of Cooper Sumner. It had to have been
him. That night in the helicopter was the last time he saw
Cooper Sumner. He just sat there in that fucking chopper,
not saying a word. Somehow, when they were tossed into the
water they were separated. Dmitri heard the splash and
heard Cooper call for him, but that was it. Dmitri was
eventually picked up by a fisherman, and because security
was so tight, was taken to the Libyan authorities who turned
him over to the Russians. They immediately identified him
and imprisoned him that night. It was three years before he
got a trial, then a sentence of life.
After three years in prison he caught wind of other
inmates planning an escape. He promised them more wealth
than they could imagine if they would take him along. Since
the others had already known of him from the outside, and
they knew he could come through on his promises, they let
him in on the escape. Dmitri had such a big name, it was
almost an honor to help him. He didn’t even have to dig.
Six months before Dmitri’s escape, his wife had positioned
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 162
herself close to Sumner, and Coop didn’t suspect a thing.
Then on the night of the final step of the escape, the
seven men crawled single file into the cramped tunnel they
had tirelessly dug spoonful after spoonful, night after
night, for three years. Dmitri was at the rear of the line.
Then with only a hundred yards to crawl to freedom, Dmitri
dug his makeshift blade from his pocket. And as he closed
in on the man in front of him, he raised his hand in the
tight space and plunged the shank deep into the man’s back.
The man died silently, and Dmitri crawled over the body to
Number two let out a little sigh as the rusty blade
settled into his spine. A quick twist of the blade, and
Dmitri was ready for number three.
Unfortunately, Three made a bit more noise, causing the
remaining two to look behind them. When they saw Dmitri
wrestle the blade from Three’s back, One and Two started
sprint-crawling. Dmitri relaxed and caught his breath. One
and Two weren’t going anywhere.
So Dmitri crawled over Three and down the tunnel to
Two, then One. He thought it was funny the way Two tried to
climb over One, while One pushed Two away. It was if they
thought a few more seconds of life would matter. No one but
Dmitri was getting out of that tunnel alive. And no one was
going to follow him or jeopardize his freedom.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 163
* * *
He knew he had a few hours before Betty gave in to
Harvey the sheriff. He found Independence, then bared right
on route 160 towards Attica, Pixley, and Medicine Lodge. It
was a hunch. But it was the first road heading west, and,
if the tapes were right, Cooper Sumner was heading to Grand
Canyon, there’s a good possibility he’s on that road.
Dmitri edged the speed odometer to eighty, checking his
rearview mirror every thirty seconds.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 164
“Goddamnit, Beckett,” Senator McAlpin yelled as he set
his drink down. “I ask you to take care of this shit and
you send me two fucking losers,” he said, rocking, using the
momentum to get his heftiness out of the wing chair. “They
had CIA written all over them. Jesus Christ, one still had
his last pay stub on him. Can you believe that? Can you
fucking believe that? Jesus fucking Christ, Beckett,” he
said. “It’s like sending your dumbest rat into the maze
with no goddamn cheese.” He pointed a fat thumb over
shoulder and shook his head. “Call Jim over there and tell
him what happened. Tell him the pay stub was a fake. It
was a ruse. The killer planted it on him. And tell him
those guys were ours.”
“Is the Director in tonight?”
“I’m sure he is, Beckett.” The Senator walked around
the borders of the Persian rug, examining it, still trying
to catch his breath after dressing down Beckett. “You know
what makes these damn rugs so expensive, son?” His voice
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 165
was calmer now, but he still made Beckett nervous. Nervous
enough not remind him that he picked the FNGs.
“Details, Beckett. That’s what makes these rugs so
expensive. The craftsmen work very hard to make sure that
the details are exact.” McAlpin dropped to one knee,
holding on to the edge of the desk for balance, then to the
other knee. “The rug is only perfect if the details are
perfect. And up until now, we’ve had the perfect operation.
Know why, Beckett?”
“Details?” he said.
“Exactly. Because we’ve taken painful measures to make
sure the details are looked after.” The Senator pointed to
the rug. “See this snag? This little thread is loose.
What do you think would happen if I were to pull it?” he
asked, not waiting for an answer. “This one little thread
would tear the whole rug apart. Follow me?” The Senator
drew a pocketknife.
“Well that’s what this woman is. She’s a loose thread
in a fine piece of art. She can unravel the whole rug,” he
said, slicing free the errant stitch.
Beckett shook his head, thinking how good a drink would
be right now. “I understand, sir. I’ll get another guy on
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 166
“Too late,” McAlpin said trying to stand, struggling
under his own weight. Beckett offered a hand up. “I’ve
already called someone else. I managed to get a hold of
It was a name he had heard over and over, but a man he
had never met. Mallory was like some legend apparition in
the Intelligence Community. As a Roamer, Mallory had worked
with every agency at one time or another. Everyone had
heard of him, but very few had ever seen him. There had
been a few more like him in the Community, but Mallory was
the latest Golden Boy.
“He should be here any moment.”
“He’s coming here? I thought he was out of the
“I called him personally.”
Mallory never knocked, and Beckett never heard him come
in. One second he wasn’t there, the next he was. He was a
tall muscular man, with long blonde hair. His icy gray eyes
were devoid of any emotions. Beckett quivered as he
realized he was standing next to a legend.
“Mallory,” McAlpin said, “this is Beckett, my
Mallory stuck out his large hand, and Beckett
hesitated. The man did not look like the type to shake
hands. Beckett, feeling somewhat intimidated and being
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 167
somewhat cautious, timidly offered his hand. Mallory
squeezed it gently.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Beckett.” His voice was crisp
and held no regional dialect.
“My pleasure, Mr. Mallory.”
Mallory released Beckett’s hand and strode to McAlpin.
“Senator,” he said, opening his arms for a hug. “It’s good
to see you again,” Mallory said, then whispered loud enough
for Beckett to overhear, “Nice job. He’s cute.”
McAlpin broke from Mallory and looked at Beckett.
“Thanks,” he said with a flare of pride. “But look at you.
You look great.” He held him at arm’s length and admired
him. “A perfect specimen of man, both mentally and
physically.” The Senator brought him tight for another hug.
After a round of small talk, Mallory got to the point.
“You didn’t call me back from Tunisia just to chit-chat,
Senator. What can I do for you?” He said it as if he was
still trying to repay some debt long ago forgotten by the
Senator, but still fresh on the mind of Mallory.
“Have a seat, son,” McAlpin said. He took the cigar
box from the mahogany desk and offered a Cuban to Mallory,
then to Beckett. Beckett took two, clipped the ends,
lighted one and handed it to McAlpin. “A problem has come
up. There’s a woman who stands to destroy a large portion
of the intelligence organizations. She could, in effect,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 168
destroy America.” The Senator enjoyed being dramatic and
used his talent just enough that only those closest would
notice his act. Beckett watched the Senator and wrapped his
lips around the cigar and sucked, drawing in the smoke.
“Do you have a picture of her?” Mallory asked.
The Senator took a large envelope from the desk and
tossed it to Mallory. “Until today, we thought she was
operating alone. We thought one of the doctors might have
been in on it with her, but he turned out to be nothing.”
Mallory took out the black and white and studied it.
“Yeah, like a school teacher with a rich husband,”
“No,” Beckett said a little too fast, wanting to
contribute something to the conversation. “We’ve got her
phone tapped,” he added.
“Where is she now?” Mallory asked.
“The last time we had a fix on her, it was in
Cherryvale, Kansas,” Beckett said. “We sent in two men for
her. One took it from a distance through the forehead.
Perfectly centered, I might add. The other, point blank,
base of the skull. They found the top of his head thirty
The Senator took a puff from the cigar, stared at the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 169
glowing end, and said wistfully, “Almost looked like one of
our own did it.”
“She’s smart,” Beckett added. “She’s not using credit
cards, or ATMs. And it looks like she bought a car just for
“How did you find her?” Mallory asked.
“We put a Treasury Trace on her checking account. A
check approval company reported one written for car
repairs,” Beckett said.
“And you think she might be with someone else?”
“Yes,” said Beckett.
“Beckett,” Mallory said with authority, “find out what
other transactions were completed with credit cards that
day. Then, identify those which are not registered within a
fifty mile radius and start there. Same with ATMs. Also,
check hotel and pay phone records for any long distance
calls. I.D. the numbers called, then find out who lives
there. Call the local post office and hold the mail for my
inspection. I want to look for cards, bills, anything going
out of town from someone from out of town. Got that,
“Sure,” Beckett said. “But it may take some time.”
“I know. It’ll give me a chance to get out there.”
“I love this man,” the Senator said enthusiastically to
Beckett. “That’s why he’s the best.” The Senator tried to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 170
stand from his chair and said, “I’ll have a jet ready for
you first thing in the morning.”
“Don’t get up, Senator,” Mallory said, rising at the
same time as Beckett. “I’ll contact you with good the
The Senator took Mallory’s hand, holding tight with
both hands and said, “Be careful, son. I want you back
“Count on it,” Mallory said.
Beckett opened the door and wished Mallory the best.
With the door closed, the two men alone, Beckett took his
place behind the Senator’s chair and gently massaged
McAlpin’s thick shoulders. “Don’t worry. He’ll find her,”
he said soothingly. “He seems very capable.”
“I’m not worried about him,” the Senator said. “I’m
worried about the hearings. That punk Senator from Florida
is breathing down my neck.”
“Why not just eliminate the problem?”
“The Senator?” McAlpin said as if taken aback.
“Why not. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.”
“You really think I should?” the Senator asked.
“Why not,” Beckett said, rubbing McAlpin’s rubbery
neck. “How’s that feel?”
“Great,” the Senator moaned.
“I’ve got some good news.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 171
“Yes,” McAlpin said in a sleepy voice.
“We should have the information from the safe deposit
boxes soon. I looks like she might have opened one. First
Bank of Nashville’s security camera might have spotted her.”
“Really?” the Senator asked excitedly, trying to turn
his heavy body in the small chair. “Daddy would love that.”
“I know you would,” Beckett said. “Don’t get your
hopes up though. The woman in the picture is undisguised,
actually smiling for the camera.”
“When will Daddy know?”
“Hopefully tomorrow.” Beckett kissed the top of the
Senator’s head, stepped from behind the chair and took the
Senators glass. “How about another drink?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 172
Kathryn was too scared to sleep and found herself
listening outside Coop’s motel door, holding two bottles of
beer. She didn’t want to wake him, but she didn’t want to
be alone either. She promised herself she’d only knock
lightly. If he was awake, he would hear it. If he wasn’t
awake, she’d tough it out alone.
She waited for an answer. When it didn’t come, she
tried again, only harder. She had probably just knocked too
lightly the first time. She whispered his name, but still
Kathryn looked down the cement sidewalk toward her
empty room, then to the four cars and one motorcycle in the
large gravel lot, and an overwhelming feeling of aloneness
fell over her like a thick blanket of fog. She turned to
the door and began pounding. “Coop?” she yelled, hoping she
didn’t sound as afraid as she was. “Coop? You awake?” She
banged harder on the old wooden door. “Coop!” she screamed,
just as the door opened.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 173
“What?” he said impatiently, wearing only a pair of
boxers, wiping the sleep from his eyes. In this pose, it
was easy to imagine him as a child.
“I thought you might like a beer,” she said, and held
out the bottle. “And some conversation,” she added.
Coop took the beer, said, “You’re right about one
thing,” and closed the door, shutting her out.
Kathryn banged on the door again. “Coop! Let me in!”
Coop opened the door, and let her pass. “Didn’t we
talk at dinner?” he said.
She brushed past him and sat on the corner of the bed.
“Did I wake you?” she asked innocently. For the first time,
she noticed the definition in his body. She had never
realized how the deltoid flexes when a man drinks a beer.
He was in perfect shape, and for a moment she wondered what
it would be like to be with him. It had been over two years
since she had been intimate with a man. So long, she
thought, she doubted she could remember how. “To a safe
journey,” she said, and raised her beer to meet Coop’s.
“Cheers,” he said, and moved closer. He was standing
over her, looking down on her, and she trembled at his
closeness. His eyes were intense as he leaned toward her.
Kathryn sat still waiting to react, not sure she could
resist. Her eyes lowered to his tight waist, his blue
boxers. “Coop?” she said sweetly, as he moved against her,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 174
his big hands running down her soft back. Her body
shuddered, and she wondered if he could feel it too. They
had formed a bond, an alliance, but she wasn’t sure if they
relationship should move to this level. Kathryn had to
decide whether to give herself to the man that saved her
life or try to stay focused on getting her son back.
Intimacy now would seem premature, but somehow it also
seemed perfect. She felt his hands brush down her back. He
must have felt her shudder that time. She wasn’t going to
resist. His hands moved to the smooth curves of the small
of her back, then further. Wondering if he was waiting for
a sign from her, she said, “Coop? It’s okay,” she said.
“It’s not okay,” he said. “You’re on my jeans.” She
felt a tug underneath her, snapping her back into reality.
“Could you move?” he asked.
She inched over.
“Thanks,” he said and slid on his jeans and green tee
shirt. “What’s on your mind?”
“What do you want to talk about?” he said, and took a
seat in the straight chair at the desk.
“I don’t know?” she said. She caught a puzzled look
from him, and watched as he opened the door.
“Looks scary out there,” he said. “Very empty.”
“Really?” she said casually. “I hadn’t noticed.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 175
He shut the door and sat on the bed next to her.
“Could you do me a favor?” he said and grabbed her hand.
“Would you mind staying in here for the night? I’ll sleep
on the floor. I’d just feel safer.”
“Do you think I should?” she said, not wanting to sound
Coop smiled. “I think it would be a good idea. I have
to take care of something first,” he said and grabbed the
tape recorder from the nightstand. “Give me your key.”
She tossed him the key, and in two minutes he was back.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“Just a little subterfuge,” he said, and made a pallet
from the extra blankets and sheets, positioning it between
her and the door. He sat on the hard floor, leaning against
the big, comfortable, king size bed and sipped his beer.
Kathryn snuggled into the bed. She could smell his
cologne. For fifteen minutes they sipped beer and talked
about nothing. Kathryn mostly talked and Coop sometimes
Twenty minutes after the lights were out, she said,
“You seemed to know what you were doing back there.” She
let it hang in the air, waiting for a response, hoping to
finesse a little information from him. She hoped the dark
intimacy of the hotel room would act as a confessional where
no question could escape an honest answer.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 176
“I’ve had some experience,” he said. By his yawn in
his voice, she knew she had wakened him again.
She held her hand out at arm’s length to see if she
could see it. She couldn’t. “Ever married?”
“Almost,” he said.
“Turned out we had one too many things in common,” he
“Is that the woman you’re running away from? What’s
“Could we talk about something else please?” he said.
“How about your son? What’s his name?”
Kathryn never had a chance to name her child before he
was taken from her, but according to the files, the boy’s
name was now Zachary Montoya. “Zachary,” she said. “I
can’t wait to see him.”
“You’ll see him soon,” Coop said and reached up and
patted her foot. The touch made her feel safe.
Kathryn waited for him to continue, but he didn’t. It
was obvious he didn’t want to talk anymore, but she still
wasn’t quite ready to sleep.
* * *
Coop lay on top of the thick, musty-smelling blanket.
The small pillow barely kept his head off the carpeted
cement floor. He tried not to think about orphaning the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 177
child, bringing another into his world of pain. But lying
in bed at night, when it’s the quietest time of the day,
thoughts that kept him awake streamed through his head like
a train through a tunnel. He hadn’t thought about
Menendez’s death this much for a couple of months, and now,
for a reasons that escaped him, the chatty little prom queen
was making him recall every detail.
It had happened during the Christmas holidays. After
spending two bitter cold years in Yugoslavia, he volunteered
for a milk run in Central America--maximally demote Senor
Menendez, the leader of the Menendez Cartel and former agent
of the CIA. Menendez deserved the demotion. He bit the
hand that fed him. He had used the CIA, and the information
he gathered to rise to top of the cartel. Then when he was
eventually arrested, he threatened to expose the CIA’s
activities in Central America. Activities that included the
manufacturing of cocaine that could kill a person in one
dose. A substance necessary to “change the public’s mind,”
as the campaign promised. The feds released him, and before
he could walk out the door, had put a contract out on him.
It took five days of crawling on his belly, dressed in
a ghilley suit to get close enough for the shot and still
have a head start for the egress. Finally, he had the shot
lined up--a three second window of opportunity to nail
Menendez between the house and his limo. He watched for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 178
Menendez through the cross-hairs of the Leupold scope, like
watching a movie with the sound off.
Menendez walked out of the house with his back to Coop
as if he were talking to someone still inside. He was close
to the door of the mansion, while guards with earpieces
circled wide around him. A limo was being brought around
from the other side of the house.
From the front door, Menendez’s wife rushed outside and
began to argue with her husband. Menendez slapped her, then
followed with a solid right across the chin, and she
collapsed. El Senor turned, facing Coop, and began for the
car. Menendez had made it easy for Coop by wearing a white
golf shirt with a logo on the left side just above the
heart. With the cross-hairs fixed just left of the logo,
Coop added pressure to the trigger.
Suddenly, a little boy entered the circular view of the
scope and started punching and slapping at his father’s
legs. Coop paused. At this distance, if the scope had been
knocked out of alignment just a millionth of a centimeter,
he could hit the boy.
Menendez stood still for a moment, raised his hands in
the air as if yelling to God, while his son beat on him.
This was the shot Coop had waited for. He had to take it.
Menendez would be behind the car in three seconds. If
didn’t tag Menendez now, the mission was a failure. Coop
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 179
leveled the sights on the man’s heart and fired, then bolted
another round into the chamber. Coop anxiously watched
through the scope, waiting to see the results.
The little boy suddenly stopped beating his father’s
leg and fell to the ground. Menendez dropped to the ground
next to the car, covering his son, and Coop readied for a
Coop watched as the boy squeezed out from under his
father and ran to his mother’s side. Menendez awkwardly
picked himself from the ground and grabbed a weapon from the
nearest guard, opening fire on the guards, killing them all
before they could respond. In the shower of bullets, one
found his wife. He turned and faced Coop’s direction and
began firing wildly.
Through the scope Coop noticed a dark stain just above
the logo on his golf shirt. Menendez tried to cover it with
his left hand as he fired the automatic weapon with his
With the security and spotters dead, Coop fired a
second round. The impact knocked Menendez to his knees,
then to his face. Coop waited and watched for anyone else
to show. A movement near the house caught his eye and the
boy appeared again in the scope’s view. Coop watched as the
boy neared his father, then bent over the way kids do when
they’re about to do a headstand. The child, now face to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 180
upside down face with his father, stared for a moment, then
knelt at his father’s head. He gently pushed the man, as if
trying to wake him. He pushed again and nothing happened.
The boy stood up and moved to the man’s mid-section and
pushed on his side. Again, nothing. The boy tried again
frantically. When he couldn’t wake his father, he sat near
the man’s head, facing Coop. Coop watched as the boy
screamed, tears running down his innocent face, no doubt
believing he was the one that had killed his father and his
mother. But it was Coop the orphan, the unwanted child of
some casual union, the byproduct of cold lovers not wanting
to deal with their responsibility, who orphaned that little
boy in the mountains of Colombia, dragging him into a
painful, parent-less world.
* * *
“Cooper? Cooper? Hello? Are you in there?“ she
He came back to the smelly blanket and the loquacious
debutante. “I’m here,” he said, wishing he weren’t.
“Did you doze off?”
“Yeah.” He had never told anyone about the job in
Central America and the guilt he suffered. Once, during the
quiet openness after making love, he almost told Gabrielle.
“I said, if you could live anywhere in the world, where
would it be?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 181
“Anywhere,” she said.
“If I could live anywhere, I’d live right where I
“Not me,” Kathryn said firmly, then paused, hoping for
interaction. “Would you like to know where?”
“I’d love to,” he said, wondering if every night was
going to be like this.
“I’d move to Belize. They have an barrier island right
off the coast.”
“That’s a good place for one,” he said.
“Did you know the national language there is English?”
“Sounds nice,” Coop said. “Sounds very nice.” The
bright lights of a vehicle opened Coop’s eyes. They were
too close, too bright. He sprung from his pallet, grabbed
the Browning and chambered a round. He stood to one side of
the window and peeked out. After a moment of watching, he
flipped the safety and stretched out on the floor.
“What was it?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said and lay back down. “Just the
“An exterminator? At this hour?”
“Exterminators sleep too, you know.” He fluffed his
little pillow and rested his head.
Coop was almost asleep when she continued. “What was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 182
your mother like?”
Every day of his boyhood life Coop had wondered about
his parents. He was told repeatedly his father was an
Admiral who, as an Ensign, had won the Medal of Honor, and
his mother was a was an operative for the CIA. They had a
short affair, she got pregnant, and she didn’t want the
child. End of story. “I never knew my parents,” he said.
“Lately I’ve been noticing more and more mothers with
their kids,” she said. “They all seem so happy. So loved.
I just don’t know how I’m going to do it.” She sat up in
the bed. “All this goddamn happy love! If I try to be that
happy, it’ll seem so fake.”
“Maybe when you see him, your motherly instincts will
take over,” Coop said.
“Instincts? I have no motherly instincts,” she said.
“Sure you do,” he said. “It’s just like back at the
diner when you knocked over that table.”
“So I knocked over the table. So what.”
“That table was screwed down in to the floor with three
in lag bolts,” he said. “Your survival instincts gave you
the power to knock over that table. It’s like the story of
the mother who rolls her car, trapping her kids inside, then
manages to lift the car herself to save her children. Her
instincts just take over.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 183
“Then what the hell happened to my instincts when he
put the gun to my head?”
“They’ll only get you so far,” Coop said. “You also
need some thoughtful effort.”
“So my instincts would’ve let me live for one more
minute.” she said. “Big deal.”
“Well lucky for you I had to pee,” he said. “And
there’s the third factor: Luck. Luck, instincts, and
thoughtful effort. That’s what’s going to keep you alive,”
Kathryn seemed to be pondering the brilliant advice he
offered. It was advice hard won, having picked it up over
the years while surviving assassins, skirmishes, and wars in
some of the most inhospitable terrain on the face of the
earth. She was truly giving his words the weight they
deserved. It was refreshing to see someone actually
appreciate the benefits of his experience and knowledge.
These were words that would stay with her forever.
“Don’t forget shopping,” she added with a giggle.
“Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort...and shopping,” she
It took a second for Coop to realize she was making fun
of him. “That’s right,” he said, “Luck, instincts,
thoughtful effort, shopping, and...beer,” Coop added.
“Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort, shopping, beer,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 184
“Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort, shopping, beer,
beaches, and...barbecue,” he said.
“Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort, shopping, beer,
beaches, barbecue, and...what about love?”
Coop paused, then said, “What’s love got do...got to do
She immediately added, “What’s love but a second hand
“What’s love got to do...got to do with it?” asked
“Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” replied
“Good night, Kathryn,” he said.
“Good night, Cooper,” she replied.
In ten minutes she had fallen into a convulsive sleep,
shedding the covers to the floor. Coop found the spread and
draped it around him. It was going to be a cold night, and
if she didn’t want the blanket, there was no point in
letting it go to waste.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 185
Lazy Day’s mix of Reggae and N’awlin’s music filled
Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side Watering Hole as the
spring breakers danced to a full moon suspended low over the
water. The temperature outside was in the high fifties and
some of the crowd was wearing shorts. Spot was working the
bar alone. Anna had class earlier, and had a final in the
morning so she wasn’t scheduled to work. The waitresses
were pouring their own beers which threw Spot’s accounting
system way out of whack.
“The college kids nowadays just don’t drink like they
used to,” Spot said to no one in particular as he mixed a
bushwhacker. He remembered a time when he could put a whole
six pack in a beer bong and inhale the whole seventy-two
ounces in nothing flat. He’d like to see these little
college pukes do that today.
Spot set the frozen drink on the bar. Susan Chang was
on the other side. “That for me?” Chang asked.
“No,” Spot said. “Did you order one?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 186
“No,” she said, taking the drink. She put her lips on
the straw, keeping her eyes on Spot. “But it looks good, so
I’ll take it.” She took a ten from her wadded clump of
bills and put it on the bar. “Keep it,” she said.
Spot made a fresh drink and made sure it got to the
“Where’s your wife?” Chang said.
“She’s not my wife,” Spot replied. “She’s got
“Too cute. She’s how old? Thirty? And still in
“Twenty seven. And I think it’s great.”
“But what kind of career can you start when your that
“She’s not even thirty, Susan. And she’s not doing it
for a career. She’s doing it for herself.”
“That is cute.”
“Look at you. You’re what--thirty-two? And you’ve
just started your career.”
“Bullshit,” she protested. “I’ve been in school for
the past twelve years. School’s been my career so far. But
let’s move on. I’m getting bored talking about her. Let’s
talk about you. How long have you known Coop?”
“Since the Academy,” he said, feeling like something
wasn’t quite right. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 187
“I guess you two are best friends, right?”
“Yeah. I guess,” he said, leaving for a moment to pour
a beer for a customer.
When he returned, she had finished her drink.
“Another?” he offered.
“Gimme a shooter,” she said, and pushed the empty
plastic cup to him. “Recommend something.”
“What do you feel like?”
“Something spicy, but still a little sweet,” Chang
“I know just the thing,” Spot said and bent over the
“So do I,” Chang said.
He took the chilled bottle of Goldschlager and showed
it to Chang. “This stuff will knock you on your ass.”
“That’s just what the doctor ordered,” she said.
“It’s about time someone around here gets a little
crazy,” Spot said, looking around at the well behaved crowd.
He was just about to pour Chang’s drink when she covered
the cup with her small hand.
“You don’t think I’m drinking alone, do you?” she said.
Spot shrugged his shoulders in surrender. “Doctor’s
orders,” he said and pulled a cup from underneath the bar
and poured them both a hefty shot.
“To life and love,” she said. “And everything that
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 188
happens in the name of.”
“Whatever that means,” Spot said. “Cheers.” The
cinnamon liquor tasted like the fireball’s he used to buy as
a kid at the Seven Eleven.
She slammed her cup on the bar. “Let’s go again.”
Spot filled the cups. “To the Marine Corp,” Spot said.
“Uurrah. Semper Fi.”
“Semper Fi,” Chang said, and threw her head back with
the drink. She slammed the cup again. “Another,” she
“Another,” said Spot. He was impressed with her
stamina. Anna always gave him shit about drinking like
that. It was refreshing to meet a woman who knew how to
socialize. “Now that’s drinking,” he said.
“Hypercocktaileous Amongus,” Susan said.
“What the hell’s that?” Spot said.
“The medical term for having a lot to drink,” she said
“Cocktaileous Amongus,” she said, and clinked her cup.
He downed his faster this time and slammed his cup on the
bar first. Hers followed quickly. “You won that one,” she
said. “One more.”
Spot filled the cups. “Your turn to make the toast,”
he said. Spot stared at her over the top of the cup. It
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 189
might have been the alcohol, but he felt like she was
looking at him in a way like she wanted him. It was always
the case; the more he drank, the better looking he got. Or
something like that.
“To new friends,” Susan said.
It was the alcohol. He was just getting a little
buzzed and always read too much into things, especially
things like looks from other women. “To new friends,” he
said and clicked her cup.
“To good looking, well built new friends,” she added.
It was kind of hard for him not to read something into
that. His cup was the first back to the bar. He put the
cap on the bottle.
“C’mon,” she said. “Just one more. Doctor’s orders.”
“Doctor’s orders,” he said and opened the bottle.
“What shall we drink to this time?”
“You tell me,” Chang said.
Spot looked at her. She wasn’t bad looking. She was
maybe even a little prettier than Anna. He had never had an
Asian woman. He had heard stories from other aviators
aboard the ships, but had never experienced one for himself.
“How about,” he began without thinking, “To fucking
gorgeous women.” He tried to catch himself before the words
got out, but it was too late. “Shit...I mean fucking
gorgeous...not like making love to gorgeous women...although
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 190
I’d drink to that....but you know...to really gorgeous
women.” Geez, he felt like an idiot. He raised his glass,
feeling the heat of embarrassment spread throughout his
But like a good sport, Susan raised her glass. “To
fucking gorgeous women,” she said, smiling. Grinning would
be more like it.
Spot was still red when he slammed the cup down, barely
beating Susan. “Another?” he asked.
She pushed her glass to him for a refill. But he could
have sworn he heard her say, “I think you’ve had enough.”
“What?” he said and looked up from the cups. Anna was
standing behind Susan. Susan’s eyes were as wide as beer
“I said I think you’ve had enough to drink,” Anna said,
squeezing next to Susan without acknowledging her. She
placed a paper bag on the counter. “I brought you something
to eat. I thought you might get tired of the bar food.”
Spot put away the Goldschlager, moving slowly, thinking
that any sudden moves might upset Anna. “Thanks, Honey.”
Susan pushed herself away from the bar. “I’d better be
going,” she said. “Good night, Anna.”
“See ya,” Spot said.
Anna ignored Susan. “I got my big final tomorrow. I
just wanted to stop by and give you this,” she said and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 191
pushed the bag to him. “It’s pork--the other white meat. I
roasted it for you.” She opened the bag. “Smell it,” she
said, using her hand to waft the aroma to him. “I didn’t
even use an old Hungarian recipe,” she said proudly. “It’s
Spot inhaled. “Honey, it smells great! I’m starving.”
“Well, I’d better get back to studying. I’ll call you
after the test tomorrow.” She leaned over for a kiss.
“Wish luck to me.”
“Good luck to you,” he said and kissed her. She was
the best thing that ever happened to him and he hated
himself for acting like this. He didn’t know why Anna put
up with so much of his shit. If he kept it up, one of these
days she going to blow. He set the pork roast under the
counter. He would leave early tonight and let one of the
girls lock up. It was a cloudless night and he wanted to
check out the stars through Coop’s telescope. He would grab
a six-pack from the bar, chow on pork roast, and watch the
* * *
Spot pulled the Hummer into the white, pristine garage.
He loved driving it. He felt like nothing could get in his
way that he couldn’t run over--a far cry from his old Chevy
pick-up. Coop had put a CD changer, a subwoofer, and about
ten Infinity speakers throughout the vehicle. The sound was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 192
incredible, and Spot sat in the custom made Ricaro leather
seats until Buffett had finished his song. He had taken the
long way home from the bar--past the house, down the beach
road to Navarre and back. There were so many stars, he
He juggled the roast, the four beers left from the six-
pack and the day’s mail as he tried to punch the code into
the alarm keypad. Halfway through he stopped. “Shit,” he
said aloud. He could have sworn he remembered to set it.
He unlocked the door and climbed the steps. The house was
dark except for the stunningly bright light from the full
moon. The huge windows let in so much light that only the
nooks and the corners that caught the shadows were dark. As
he went for the light, a figure dashed in front of him.
He tried for the light, and in his hurry, dropped the
bottles. They thunked against hardwood floor, distracting
him just enough for the burglar slip out the sliding glass
door and over the deck rail. He dropped the roast and
followed hoping to find prints in the sand, but the tide was
low and prints were everywhere. Standing at the water’s
edge, he looked up and down the beach for any sign.
Nothing. Still a little nervous, he plodded back to the
Inside, nothing was out of place. It wasn’t like Coop
had anything worth stealing. The telescope was still there
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 193
by the door. The chair was still in its spot, and the TV
was still hooked up. He checked Coop’s office. With the
door secure, there was no need to enter. It was Coop’s
sacred room and even Spot was not allowed in. He checked
the rest of the rooms--all in order. All empty. Completely
With nothing stolen and no description, he didn’t call
the police. If, whoever it was after something and didn’t
find it, he’d either come back or he wouldn’t. If he does,
Spot would be ready for him.
He fixed a plate of Anna’s roast, and remembering the
cat, added a little extra in case she showed up. He set the
food, along with the laptop on the other chaise lounge and
called for the cat. No response. He made himself
comfortable on the one of the deck chairs and punched in the
number for the Ophiuchus, the constellation named after
Asclepius, the god of medicine, and watched in awe as the
telescope moved, locating the constellation. It held over
60,000 positions in its computer memory and Spot hoped to
get through at least twelve tonight. If he found one he
liked he would download it into Coop’s laptop. Coop had
paid over $4000 for the telescope, and this was the first
clear night Spot had had since watching the house. He
sliced the roast, cracked open a beer and wished Anna was
with him. But then if she was, she probably wouldn’t let
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 194
him finish his six-pack.
Spot squinted into the telescope for an hour,
downloading Ophiuchus, Fornax, and Gemini, and a few others
until suddenly, the telescope darkened. When he looked up,
Dr. Chang was standing in front of the lens. She was
holding her sandals in one hand and what looked like Cape
Cod in the other. “I thought you might be out here,” Susan
said. “Mind if I join you?”
“Pull up a chair,” was all he could think to say.
“What are you drinking?” he said, and had a feeling he was
“Thought so,” Spot said, clearing her lounge chair of
the laptop and empty plate. She was looking at him again.
The same way she looked at him in the bar. “Need a
refresher?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said. “I don’t have to drive home.”
Inside at the bar, he watched her through the glass as
he fixed her drink. She was peering through the telescope.
“Can’t do it,” he said aloud, as if it would help convince
him. “Getting married soon,” he said as he packed the ice.
“Just can’t do it.” He measured the vodka and added a
little extra. “Not gonna do it.” He poured the cranberry
juice saying, “Ain’t gonna happen.” He squeezed the lime
into the drink. “Nope,” he said, getting a napkin. “I am
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 195
going to remain faithful to the woman that loves me.”
She was still looking through the telescope when he
came outside. “Here we are,” he said, thinking how it’s not
gonna happen, and handed her the drink.
She raised her drink. “To fucking gorgeous men.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 196
“I’ll drink to that,” Beckett said and toasted
champagne glasses with the Senator. “Can you believe the
luck?” The cold champagne flowed down his throat chilling
him on the inside while the hot bath and glowing candles
warmed him outside. He took another sip.
“Those security cameras don’t lie,” McAlpin said.
“First thing tomorrow morning when that bank opens, you’re
going to be there with warrants,” he said. He took a sip of
his champagne. “Could you pass the soap?”
Beckett felt for the soap. “I’ll get your back if you
“Thanks.” The Senator turned around in the big garden
tub, making sure not to knock over any candles. The jets
had made it extra bubbly--just the way they liked it. “By
noon tomorrow,” he began as Beckett scrubbed his back, “I’ll
tell them to hold their silly little hearing. It’s not
going to bother me one bit--oh, yeah, right there--it
itches. That little punk from Florida can dig up whatever
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 197
he wants because without her evidence, there’s nothing,” he
said. “I’m in the clear.”
“What if she made copies?” Beckett asked. The
Senator’s wide bottom was wedged between Beckett’s legs,
smashing them against the tub sides, almost giving him a
“A little lower,” the McAlpin said, arching his back.
“That’s it. Right there.” The Senator continued, “Highly
unlikely, Beckett. Not enough time.”
The pain in Beckett’s leg was getting intense. “Could
you scoot up just a little?”
The Senator adjusted himself . “How’s that?”
“Perfect,” he said. “How can you tell if she made
copies of the disks?”
“That’s easy. The disk will have an access code
corresponding to the Julian date and time the file was
opened or copied.”
“Sure,” Beckett said. “But what if she printed the
documents and copied them.”
“There’s thousands of pages, son. I just don’t think
she would have had the time,” he said. “She left the clinic
after midnight, and you have footage of her at nine the next
morning. Where could she have downloaded, printed, and made
copies of the files at that time of the night?”
“Kinkos,” Beckett suggested.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 198
The Senator paused in thought for a moment. “We can
run tests on what we get tomorrow. If she made copies,
we’ll know about it. Even if she Xeroxed them, we can
“How?” Beckett asked. He had never heard of anyway
you could tell if a document had been copied and he’s
usually up on these kinds of things.
“It’s one of the best kept secrets of the FBI. When
the light of the copier passes under the original, it
unevenly lightens the original’s text. The second half of
the page is always lighter; that’s when the lamp is its
“No shit?” Beckett said.
“You can’t see it without a microscope, but it’s
there,” the Senator said. “And, there’s always a small
trace of toner on the original.”
“What if one of the members of Prodigy testifies?”
“That’s never going to happen. You see, son. That’s
the beauty of Operation Prodigy,” McAlpin said. “Nobody in
Prodigy knows they’re in it. If you mention Operation
Prodigy to any of them, they won’t have a clue as to what
the hell you are talking about.” The Senator managed to
turn in the tub to face Beckett, again careful of the
candles. “They are all geniuses, but none of them are smart
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 199
enough to figure it out. We made sure of that. And that,
son, is why this program has been so successful since I
started it forty years ago.”
Beckett sipped his drink. If felt too good going down.
“You’re the genius, Daddy,” he said and stroked the
Senator’s face with his hand. The time on his watch caught
his eye. “Shit. I’ve got to get going.”
“What time is it?”
“Almost two,” Beckett said and stood up. The water and
suds slipped down his legs. “I told Meg I’d be home late.
I don’t want her to worry. You know how wives can be.”
“If I think back, I can,” the Senator said. “Give her
my love. When I see that lovely wife of yours, I’ll
apologize for keeping you.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 200
Dmitri tapped the bell on the front desk of the ancient
motel. Behind the desk, a door stood ajar and the sound of
talk radio blared from behind it. It was that General
again. He couldn’t get rid of him. He tapped the bell a
“...it’s the Trilateralists that are tearing the
country apart. They’re the ones behind the black
helicopters that we, along with our listeners, have spotted
across the United States. Let me ask you this, why is it
that the locations that have the most sightings of black
helicopters also have the highest number of people that
speak foreign languages? Two words: G-seven. I’ve seen top
secret memos about the G-seven’s plan to install a microchip
in every American baby. This chip would contain all the
information the Tricksters need to keep tabs on you. Your
social security number, bank account numbers, anything they
wanted to know, they could find out...”
Dmitri rang the bell again, twice. When the bell
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 201
stopped sounding, the talk show host’s voice returned.
“...And you know what’s made us weak? I’ll tell you
what’s made us weak, folks. It’s the factories. A country
that doesn’t make anything can’t survive. If they would
just bring the factories back, instead continuing their
crazy NAFTA policy, we could solve America’s homeless
problem. Right now were spending $ 1.5 trillion every year
on NAFTA. We could take that money and buy brand new
$50,000 homes for the 3 million homeless Americans and give
them the keys...”
Dmitri was quickly becoming impatient. He banged the
bell over and over, yelling, “Somebody get the hell out
here. Let’s go. Somebody get the fuck out here now!” A
moment later, an old man using an aluminum walker shuffled
out from the back room. Dmitri had his badge ready to
“Need a room?” the old man asked.
“Need a room number,” Dmitri said.
The old man looked at him funny and said, “Sure. We
got plenty of ‘em. Take your pick.” He turned as if he
were going back to his room.
“Where you going, geezer,” Dmitri called.
“I don’t have time for your games, buster,” the man
said. “My show’s on. Now either you’re going to have to
wait for the ten second break for station identification or
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 202
hang on for the three minute spot at twenty after.”
Dmitri flipped open the badge. “Federal agent, sir. I
need a room number of one of your guests.”
The old man flashed Dmitri a look of disgust. “Got a
“No,” Dmitri said. “But I can get one.”
“You do that,” the man said and turned away.
“I’ll bet you do a lot of cash business here, don’t
you,” Dmitri called. “I would hate it if I had to involve
the IRS in this. They love cash businesses.” Sure it was a
mean, empty threat, but that was half the fun of playing a
“Damn Federales,” the man called from the back room.
“You can all go to hell. They was here last year and
audited me. Found nothing. So go to hell.”
Dmitri was getting nowhere and knew it. The Amerikans
nowadays, it seemed were more cautious of their government
than Ruskias ever were. The difference is that the
Amerikans know the law, and they know what they can get away
with. In the Soviet there were no rules. If the government
wanted to search your home they could--at any hour of the
day for no reason at all. And they didn’t need fucking
warrants. Today, anyone who ever watched the crap that’s on
Amerikan TV knows that cops must have warrants. He tried an
alternate, more direct approach. “Okay, mister. You win.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 203
I need a room, though. It may take until tomorrow until the
warrant gets here.”
The old man walkered back out to the desk. He stopped
briefly to push his hair over his bald scalp. “Got cash? I
don’t take no plastic. Don’t believe in it,” he added.
“And I sure as hell ain’t giving the government no credit.”
“I’ve got cash,” Dmitri said. He raised his wallet to
the high counter and flipped through it indiscreetly in
sight of the man. Dmitri caught the man staring at the full
wallet. “You like what you see, old man?”
The man shuffled closer to the wallet. His face was
almost pressed against it, as he leaned over his walker. “I
might recall some of the room numbers if I had something to
help me remember.”
“Like this?” Dmitri said, thumbing through a wad of
“Yeah,” the old man said.
“Sorry,” Dmitri said. And before the old man could
react, Dmitri struck the man’s left cheek. He hit him so
hard, the old man fell over his walker and landed halfway on
a chair and the floor, his Invacare walker tangled in his
legs. “I’m on a tight budget,” Dmitri said, and walked
around the counter.
He checked the back room. Empty. He searched the desk
and found that room 27 was occupied by a Mr. Christopher
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 204
Jenkins. The only other room taken was room 26, occupied by
a woman. Dmitri took the master key and left the man laying
on the floor. The old man looked like he may have been
breathing but Dmitri didn’t have time to check.
Room 27 was near the end of the right wing of the
hotel, close to where he parked. He had parked the van on
the right side of the hotel because he had seen a motorcycle
parked by the left wing. Cooper Sumner was being very
cautious not parking in front of his room.
The door to room 27 was locked, of course, and in the
darkness and silence of the empty night, Dmitri Chernyshev
listened at the door and heard the low drone of a man
mumbling. He silently slipped the key into the door and
turned the knob slowly. Surprisingly, the old door was
didn’t squeak. He focused on the body in the bed.
His time for revenge was here. For six years, he
planned for the day he would find Cooper Sumner and kill the
bastard. He raised the gun to the bed, but something wasn’t
right. It was all too anticlimactic. He had always hoped
that he could see Coop’s eyes when he killed him. Or more
importantly, Coop would see his eyes. It wouldn’t be true
revenge if Cooper didn’t know it was Dmitri that had killed
him. It’s only revenge if, for even one small moment, the
target knows why they’re being killed.
He stared down the barrel and wondered if he should
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 205
give Sumner a fighting chance. “Fuck it,” he said, and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 206
Coop awoke from a light sleep to the distinctive sound
of a silencer in the night. He reached for his Browning and
scrambled to his feet as he screwed the silencer into the
barrel. Through the window he saw a white haired man in the
doorway of room twenty seven. It had to be Dmitri.
They had taken separate rooms, but Coop stayed in the
one registered to Kathryn in the event someone came in the
middle of the night and started shooting at her. But he
hadn’t counted on Dmitri finding him so quickly. Somehow
Chang knew exactly where he was going.
Coop brought the gun up, trying to line up a shot
through the window, but Dmitri was halfway inside the other
room, and the angle of fire was terrible. Feeling
completely vulnerable, wearing only his boxers, he silently
opened the door and stepped into the dim overhead light.
With his back to wall he sidestepped to room twenty seven,
his weapon pointed at the open door.
As he approached, he saw the shadow inside by the bed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 207
It would only be a matter of seconds before Dmitri pulled
back the covers and found a thick stack of linen and pillows
and a tape recording of Coop’s notes. Coop leveled his
weapon on Dmitri’s back. “Looking for me?” Coop asked.
Dmitri turned around slowly, his hands in the air.
“So, once again you’ve outsmarted me, Cooper,” Dmitri said.
“It’s not that difficult,” Coop said. “I heard you
might be in the neighborhood. Still sore about the swim?”
“No,” Dmitri said calmly. “It was not the swim.” Then
he suddenly screamed, “It was the six fucking years in a
goddamn filthy prison!” He composed himself, collected his
thoughts and politely added, “That’s what I’m sore about.”
“You know what I can’t understand is how you found me
so fast,” Coop said. “You must’ve had some help from my
“A little?” Coop said. “I’d say Chang set me up
perfectly. To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed that I
was burned so easily.”
Dmitri smiled. “You’re getting soft in your
retirement, Cooper. You’ve let emotions get in the way of
your life,” he said. And men like you and me, we shouldn’t
let emotions in. We can’t afford to get mad, or fall in
love. Emotions can kill us,” Dmitri said. “They are our
true enemy.” Dmitri dropped his weapon on the bed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 208
Coop steadied the gun on Dmitri. In front of him was a
murderer. But no matter how he tried to execrate Dmitri,
together, they shared a bond. The unity of killing. Coop
peered down the barrel of his Browning and could see
himself. They were mirror images of each other with only a
thin, convoluted line separating the two like the line
separating the ocean and the sky on a foggy morning.
Long ago, Coop could justify his killings “for the good
of the country. For the good of the people.” But in the
end, he was really killing for his seven figure alimony
deposit. Not much different from Dmitri’s motives. He
hated what he’d become. It was the reason he left the
Community. Through his mind’s eye, he kept seeing the
little Colombian boy orphaned on the hillside. He got four
hundred thousand to orphan the kid. Hell, he paid for his
house with the cash from the job.
But killing for survival was a different motive. And
right now, he and Dmitri shared the same motive. Today,
only one of them was going to leave that room alive. And
Coop looked down the barrel at his reflection, hating what
Something in Coop’s eyes must have given him away.
Dmitri suddenly dove to the bed and grabbed his weapon as he
rolled off the edge, managing to squeeze off a shot. It
landed in the metal door jamb.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 209
Coop returned fire, hitting Dmitri in the side. Coop
fired another round, impacting in Dmitri’s chest just before
he fell over the edge of the bed. Coop listened for
movement, then walked to where Dmitri was laying.
Coop kept the Browning on the Russian and grabbed his
recorder. A shadow moved on the wall in front of him, and
he spun ready to fire.
“My God! What happened?” Kathryn said, standing in
the door way.
He lowered the weapon. “Get your gear. It’s check out
“Who is he?”
“I’ll fill you in later. Let’s go.” He heard
Kathryn’s footsteps on the sidewalk as he searched the body.
He took the wallet, surprised at the amount of cash. The
money was going to come in handy since he was now in the
same boat as Kathryn, not able to use any form of traceable
transaction. Tracing credit card transactions is no big
deal. Rummage through someone’s trash, and anyone with a
phone, the right account number and a social security number
could track anyone else across country. He thumbed through
the stack of hundreds then slipped the wallet into his
pocket. In less than two minutes, they were on the Harley
Fifty miles later, Kathryn was falling asleep on the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 210
back of the bike, Coop’s adrenaline rush had subsided. His
heart was ticking at his usual fifty five beats per minute.
The wind was blowing through the empty fields as he
rambled away from the approaching Kansas dawn. The
headlight cut a path through the light fog, as the sun came
up behind him, turning the fields from black to blue to gray
The sunrise is the coldest part of the day, and for
Coop, the most lonely. Dmitri’s life ended as uneventfully
and as quickly as did the others he had killed. Most of the
time it was no dramatic shootout, no lingering confessions
as his prey lay dying, and nobody waking up from the dead,
grabbing you as you walk away. It was just a simple
finality. He tried not to think about Dmitri. Those things
are better if put away in some dark corner of his brain. He
just hoped he had an empty corner left.
They rode until the sun had warmed the ground, melting
the thin layer of frost that spread across the fields. He
saw a dirt road ahead and slowed for it. The change in
speed awoke Kathryn. Her arms tighten around him, and in a
small way made the dawn a little less lonely.
“Where we going?” she yelled over the roar of the bike.
Coop pointed to a old oak grove by a small stream. He
pulled off, maneuvered the bike through the trees, and found
a place out of sight from the main road.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 211
With the engine off, the silence of the dawn returned.
The higher, thin branches of the trees clacked with the
slight wind. In the distance, a cow bellowed, and the
occasional passing crow cawed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 212
Mallory walked up the old cement steps to the Medicine
Lodge courthouse just as the sun came above the buildings.
He was in time for shift change. It would give him an
opportunity to talk to most of the deputies. Hell, he might
get to talk to all four of them. What a geedunk, fucking
town. Geedunk, with a hard G; he loved that word, geedunk.
He picked up at Quantico going through sniper school with
the Marines. He also loved his boots and just about
everything else about himself. He watched them as they
climbed the steps.
Mallory was a fashion-less man. So much so, he was
always in style. The only clothes he ever wore were black.
Today, like every other day, he wore black jeans, black
cowboy boots, a black T-shirt and a long black leather
duster. He particularly loved the duster because it looked
great with his long blonde hair and it gave him the ability
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 213
to conceal anything he wanted beneath it. This morning,
going into the police station, he concealed nothing but a
Beretta 92F and an authentic FBI badge with his codename,
Mallory Washington. All the codenames were the same:
Washington. Special Agent last-name-first, Washington. The
badge sometimes confused the idiots of the world. “There
aren’t too many blonde headed Washingtons out there, if you
know what I mean,” an ignorant sheriff once told him.
Cherryvale had nothing to go on so far. He had talked
to the sheriff and the lady that owned the Torch--what a
stupid name for a restaurant. Somebody should’ve torched
the shithole a long time ago. She had nothing to offer.
She didn’t see a thing. And obviously the girl was not
going to still be in town so he thought he’d check some
nearby cities while the phone company dug up records, and
the post office gathered its mail. With any luck someone
might have seen her yesterday.
He pushed open the heavy door and walked into the large
office. A young deputy was sitting at one of the desks
scattered around the room. Some dirtbag was signing the
paperwork the deputy gave him. Another deputy sat on his
fat ass with his feet on the desk playing one of those
computer games. There was no leadership around. No
leadership and no discipline. The office to the left looked
like it might be the sheriff’s, though it was empty. A
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 214
hallway from the back wall had a sign warning all visitors
must be searched before proceeding--a rule that probably was
never enforced. The only kind of excitement they got around
here is probably the occasional farmer who has a couple of
hits of his homemade liquor, then terrorized the town on his
John Deere. Or the Indian who consumes a little too much
Peyote and starts doing the rain dance in the downtown
fountain. And who the hell’s going to visit those people?
Bunch of fucking geedunk losers.
When no one in the office looked up, Mallory said
politely, “Excuse me, gentleman.”
The one with the dirtbag said, “May I help you?”
“Yeah,” Mallory said, and showed the skinny deputy the
badge. “I need some help. I’m looking for a woman that
might’ve passed through here.”
“Filo? Could you help this fellow?”
Filo never looked up from his game. “In a sec. I’m
busy. Just sit down.”
Earnest looked up at Mallory with an apologetic look on
his face and said, “Filo? I think you--”
“I said in a second! Jesus Christ, I’m having my best
game ever. Sit down, Goldilocks. I’ll be there in a sec.”
Mallory strode over without saying a word. And before
Filo could look up, Mallory snatched the Game Boy from his
pudgy fingers and smashed it three times against the wall so
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 215
fast that Filo had no time to respond. Filo’s eyes followed
the toy as Mallory set it back into his lap.
As Filo’s staring at the smashed Game Boy, Mallory
kicked the deputy’s feet off the desk, spilling him and his
chair to the floor.
“What the fuck?” the deputy said, trying to kneel.
“Who the hell are--”
Mallory showed him the I.D. and said, “Get the hell up,
you piece of shit.” God, he loved this part. He watched as
the man stood with great difficulty. Then just as the
deputy was almost erect, Mallory pushed him back down. “I
said get the hell up.”
“What the hell are you doing?” Earnest said from
“Stay out of this, Earnest,” Mallory warned. “This is
between me and this pile of shit.” Filo stood, trying to
snap to attention.
“Look, shithead,” Mallory began to lecture, “Anyone
could have walked in here and done this to you,” he said.
“I could have been part of a gang to rip off the Happy Seven
Food Mart. All--”
“I just done that yesterday,” the vagrant blurted.
Mallory shot the dirtbag a look and continued, “And all
I had to do was come in here and kick both of your asses and
the town would have been mine. Your ass would have been a
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 216
piece of cake. But I don’t know about Earnest’s. He looks
pretty scrappy.” It was good to have one of them on your
side. “You’re lucky it was me, a Federal Agent.” He looked
around the room. “You know what this office represents,
Filo shook his head.
“I represents the public....It represents safety....It
represents ability....It represents service.” He was
running out of things to say, and trying not to laugh, so he
settled for, “It represents your ability to serve the public
safely. Do you understand me?”
“Very good,” he said. “Now let’s start over.” He
offered his hand and said, “I’m looking for a woman that
might have passed through here recently.” He handed Filo
the photo taken from the security camera.
Filo studied it for a minute and handed it back. “No.
I ain’t seen her,” he apologized. “Can I sit down now?”
“Let me take a look,” Earnest said. “I saw a woman
yesterday when I’s picking him up at the drug store. She
was with her fiancé. A real nice guy.”
“This her?” Mallory asked, handing him the photo.
Earnest needed only to look for a second. “That’s her,
all right. Strange one too. She thought I was there to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 217
arrest her. Now I know why.”
“What’d she do?” Filo asked.
“Russian spy,” Mallory said and pulled a chair up to
“Why don’t you put out an APB,” asked Earnest.
“Good idea, Earnest. But it might scare her into
hiding,” Mallory said. “And we were almost on top of her.”
“That’s good thinking,” Filo said. He didn’t say it
with enough enthusiasm to be sincere, and was probably just
trying to score a few points with Mallory.
“But now we’re at a standstill,” Mallory said. “We
have no idea which way she could have gone,” he said, and
took out a small note pad. “Did either of you talk to her?”
“I did,” Earnest said. “But it was not about where she
The vagrant piped up again. “I heard her,” he said.
“Sure ‘nuff. I heard her. I know where she’s headed.”
Mallory moved slowly in front of the prisoner and
stood, leaning over, placing a palm on each arm of the man’s
chair, staring face to face with him. Mallory tried not to
inhale. The dirtbag needed a shower. “Now why don’t you
just tell us where that might be, cowboy,” he said.
“Tell you what, blondie. I’ll make a deal with you,”
the vagrant offered.
“What kind of deal?” Mallory asked.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 218
“You a federal agent. You can pardon me. Pardon me
and I’ll tell you.”
Mallory turned to Earnest. “What’d he do?”
“Stole from the Happy Seven.”
“What’d he steal?”
He turned back to the prisoner. “Fair enough. Now
where’d they go?”
“You didn’t let me finish,” the man said. “I want a
pardon and a new set of clothes. These stink.”
“That they do,” Mallory said, backing away. “Fine.
You got new clothes. Deputy,” he said turning to Earnest,
“take him shopping today. Get him some durable clothes.”
Mallory couldn’t take the smell any longer and pulled up a
chair across from the prisoner. “Now, tell me--”
“Wait! I still ain’t finished. I want a pardon, new
clothes and a night in the hotel.”
“I suppose you’re going to want room service?” Mallory
said, beginning to loose his patience.
“It’s not a holiday without it,” the man said imitating
“Fine. A pardon, new clothes, and one night at the
hotel with room service. Anything else.” He would have
promised him anything to find the girl. It wasn’t as if he
was really going to give it to him.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 219
“A bus ticket to Florida.”
“Deal. Now where’d she go?”
“Let me see the bus ticket,” the man said.
Mallory shot up from his chair, sending it careening
into the wall across the room. He leaned over the vagrant
and through a clenched jaw said, “Look you little maggot.
You want to fuck with blondie? Come on. Try me.
Otherwise, tell me what I want to know. Got it?”
“Yes sir,” the man said.
“Good,” Mallory said. Then for good measure and to
make sure he had the prisoner’s fullest attention and utmost
cooperation, with the whip of his neck, he head-butted the
vagrant in the nose. Instantly the blood began flowing.
“Ah, man! What’d you go and do that for?” the dirtbag
asked, trying to catch the blood in his hands. “Look at me.
I’m bleeding,” he said to Earnest.
“To make sure we understand each other,” Mallory said.
“Where’d they go?”
“Grand Canyon,” he said. He lifted his shirt-tail and
blotted his nose.
“Who was she with?” Mallory asked. “And, try direct
“Some big guy,” he said holding his nose, making his
voice nasally. “Short brown hair. He was tall. Six-two.
Easy one-ninety. But all muscle, you know.” The maggot
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 220
stopped for a moment. “Filo, get me some tissue.”
Filo looked up from his desk to Mallory to see if he
had to get it.
“Get him some goddamn tissue, Filo. And get me some
coffee too--black. Earnest, coffee?” Mallory offered.
“Yeah,” the vagrant answered. “With four sugars.” The
direct pressure seemed to be working. The blood had stopped
but he kept pressure on it to be safe. “So as I was saying,
they was talking about how somebody’s trying to kill her.”
“What’d he say?”
“At first he didn’t believe her, but then the crazy
fool agreed to help her. Like a knight in shiny fucking
“And you’re positive they’re headed for the Grand
Canyon,” Mallory asked.
“Positive,” the man said releasing pressure from his
nose. “Like I said, a knight in shiny fucking armor. They
even rode away on an armored horse.” He took a sip of
coffee and turned to the other deputy. “Hey, Filo, how
‘bout a doughnut?”
“A bike?” Mallory asked. “What kind?”
“A real nice one. A Harley Fat Boy. Black and chrome.
Fucker was bad.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 221
Mallory picked up a phone and arranged for a chopper to
meet him at the canyon, then quickly hung up. He turned to
the vagrant. “Very good, Dirtbag. For a drunken geedunk,
you did pretty good.” He made the sign of the cross on the
man, the way a Catholic priest would and said, “Consider
yourself pardoned.” He left the deputies with a bogus
address to send the bills for the clothes and the hotel
stay, said adios and got the hell out of that geedunk
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 222
The sun through the open door brought Dmitri back from
the dream world. He struggled to sit up, but the pain in
his chest was overwhelming so he lay there for a moment
longer. He wiggled his toes, mildly surprised he could. He
tried his fingers, and everything worked like it was
supposed to. The Russian fought through the pain in his
chest and managed to sit up.
With his body feeling like it was returning to life, he
unbuttoned his shirt, gently removed it, then shed the
bullet proof vest. He had never worn one before, but had
found it in the van along with other gear, and thought he
would give it a try. Although it was heavy, he felt it gave
him an edge. And today it did. He held it up for
inspection. There were three nine-mil rounds almost
imbedded in the jacket. He stood and painfully put the
shirt back on, then twisted and turned his torso, stretching
the sore muscles.
The keys to the van were still under the seat, and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 223
Dmitri sped out of the parking lot heading for the next town
toward the Grand Canyon.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 224
The sun over the gulf poured into the sliding glass
door in Cooper’s bedroom. The obnoxiously bright sun burned
Spot’s eyes as he slowly opened them. He had slept so hard,
they were caked shut. Sometime during the night someone had
crept up on him and forced a rusting piece of rebar through
his head about an inch above his ears and were now sliding
it back and forth, and moving it all around, as he tried to
remember what the hell had happened last night. He squeezed
his head, trying to stop the pain.
Spot managed to get to his feet to stop the damn
sunlight blasting through the window like some kind of
goddamn nuclear flash. He pulled the vertical blinds shut
and when he turned around, he noticed two things were not
One: Susan Chang lay in his bed, the sheets resting
just below her small firm breasts. She was still asleep, a
light snore escaping from her delicate nose. And that
wouldn’t have really been a big deal had it not been for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 225
problem number two: the house smelled like bacon.
It took a minute to register that someone was
downstairs in the kitchen cooking breakfast--probably an All
American breakfast, as Anna liked to call it. Cheese eggs,
bacon, grits and raisin toast. She had taken the idea from
Waffle House the only night he had ever seen her drunk. By
the end of the night, Anna knew what scattered, smothered,
covered, chunked, diced and topped meant, and was yelling it
proudly for everyone to hear.
Spot started pacing the room in long strides. “Fuck.
Fuck. Fuckin’ A. What am I going to do,” he said and paced
faster. In a moment she was going to burst through the door
with a big plate of food, then probably force feed it to him
plate and all. Last night slowly came back to him like he
was remembering parts of a dream. He remembered talking at
first about the stars, then Coop...Jesus Christ, he hoped he
didn’t tell her anything he shouldn’t have. Coop was his
best friend and there was no way he would jeopardize him or
anything he was doing. He had been told a thousand times
not to talk about that night in the helicopter and he didn’t
think he ever did...except once he told Anna, and maybe last
night, he might have mentioned something about it to Susan.
But it was such a great story, it was impossible not to
tell. But that was the least of his problems.
Spot tried to recall every part of the conversation,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 226
but the visuals of last night in bed kept creeping in.
And down stairs was Anna.
“Shit. What am I going to do?” He paced across the
room, then stopped suddenly and looked at Susan. She was
fast asleep. She wasn’t going to wake up anytime soon. He
would leave her up here, scarf down Anna’s All American
Breakfast, and fifteen minutes later tell her he’s got to
get ready for work. He’d leave a note in plain sight
telling Susan not to come down if she woke up.
He slipped on some shorts, being extra careful not to
wake her. A quick sniff of his hands, his face, and
whatever else he could smell, told him he needed to rinse
off Susan’s perfumes and other fragrances before seeing
Anna. But the water running might wake her, or worse, Anna
might hear it and consider it an invitation to come up.
Coop kept his toiletries under the sink, and Spot
grabbed the first thing he saw without really looking. He
sprayed some on and instantly tried to muffle a scream as
his skin felt as if it was being scoured from his bones with
sandpaper. He held the bottle so that could read it: Raid.
Now walking stiffly, trying desperately to take the
pain and keep his skin from moving, Spot left Susan snoring
in the big bed. He posted a note where he knew she would
find it, shut the door behind him, and went to greet Anna
and her breakfast.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 227
Anna was in the kitchen, and Spot tried his best to
pretend he was surprised. “What a surprise,” he said,
stifling a yawn. “How long have you been here? This is
such a nice surprise,” and hugged her, but not too hard.
His chest still burned from the Raid.
“I figured you worked so late last night that you might
wake up hungry so I wanted to make you my All American
Breakfast,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful day, I thought
we could eat out on the deck.” She stirred the cheese into
the eggs and said, “You watch the eggs and I’ll go set the
table outside,” she said.
The deck. It was littered with food, glasses and who
knew what else. He remembered they did it at least once out
“No. No,” he said, trying to speak calmly, “I’ll set
the table. It might need to be hosed off. You know with
the birds and all.”
“Okay,” she said. “But make it nice. I want this to be
special. Maybe after breakfast,” she said, raising an
eyebrow and trying to look very sexy, “we could go upstairs
Spot had neither the desire, the energy, nor the room
in bed to do...you know. But he had never turned her down
before and didn’t want to make her suspicious. “That sounds
like a great idea,” he said walking to the deck. “I just
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 228
hope I’m not too full after eating your delicious All
Outside, the deck looked pretty good--nothing
incriminating except for a couple of glasses and the towel
they had used to clean up with last night after the first
time. A few minutes of work, and the place would be
spotless. The glasses were tipped by the wind and wedged
against the east railing. Spot bent to pick up the glasses
and heard someone calling him.
“Hey there, big fella,” Dick Velour said between huffs,
wearing his Speedo bikini, and again Sweatin’ to the Oldies-
-volume two this time. The sun glistened on his bald,
sweaty head. He pendulous gut was covered with a thick
black and gray pelt. A gold medallion swung against his
flabby chest in cadence to his vigorous workout, and a
cigarette was burning in the ashtray on the table.
“Morning, Dick,” Spot said unenthusiastically. He
peeked in to keep an eye on Anna in case she wandered
“How’s things at the bar?” Velour asked.
“Fine.” He searched the deck for any more evidence.
“What are you doing with the profits? I got this great
vehicle that’s bringing in about thirty percent. It’s a
little risky, but I think you can handle it.”
“No thanks,” Spot said. “I’m sticking with CDs.” Coop
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 229
had told him to say CDs. It really grates Velour. “I’m
getting a solid four and a quarter.”
“Jesus Christ, son. You’ll never make it that way,” he
said shaking his head. “You’ll work the rest of your life.”
He said it as if that were a crime.
“Well, by the time I donate to the various charities,
there’s really not much left over.” He knew that would
really piss Velour off.
Velour took a sip from his bloody mary Spot hadn’t seen
and said, “Well it looks like you’re doing one thing right.”
“It looks like you and the good neighbor Susan Chang
had a wild time last night.” He said it loud enough for
Anna to hear inside. “Wanna see the video?”
“Shhhut up.” He looked in on Anna. She saw him and
waved. Spot waved and smiled.
Velour turned off the music, picked up his cigarette
and his drink, and walked to the rail of his deck. They
were standing twenty feet away from each other, and Dick
lifted a side of his Speedo, slipped out his penis and
started to pee through the spindles.
“Jesus, Dick. I’m standing right here,” Spot said,
turning his back.
Dick laughed. “Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Besides, the sand’ll soak it up,” he said. “I didn’t
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 230
realize Chang was such a wild woman, Spot. But I got tell
you that shit is contagious. A lady friend and I were
watching you two go to town until she couldn’t take it
anymore, and we had to have our own little party. I got
that video too if you want it.”
Spot turned as Dick finished. “Would you shut the hell
“Sorry,” Velour said, and began speaking in hushed
tones. “You got company?”
“That’s only the half of it,” Spot said. He picked up
the hose and began spraying the deck.
“Hey Spot,” Velour called again as finished and shook
himself. “Have you noticed all of the cars parked along the
Spot stopped spraying. “I remember a Cablemasters
truck down the road. Why?”
“I’ve just seen a lot of government-type sedans on the
block lately.” He looked at Spot intensely as if he were
going to confide in him. “Is Coop up to something that he
“Don’t think so.” Spot shrugged as if his question was
no big deal. “Maybe it’s someone else. Or maybe it’s your
“Yeah,” Velour said and took a deep drag, holding in
the smoke. “You’re probably right,” he said exhaling. He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 231
took a long draw from the bloody mary, turned on the music
and continued his exercising.
Spot checked on Anna. She was headed outside. He hid
the glasses behind his back. “Hi, hon,” he said innocently.
“How is it going out here? I hear a lot of talking and
not much work being done.”
“Everything is done. I just got to get a towel and
wipe off table.” He started to slide past her.
“What’s wrong with this one,” she said, reaching for
the soiled towel.
Spot grabbed her just in time. “It’s dirty. It’s been
out here for awhile. I’ll get a fresh one,” he said and
shuffled her inside.
“I’ll get one,” Anna said. “They’re in his bathroom
upstairs aren’t they?” She ran for the steps as if she were
toying with Spot.
“Wait, I’ll get it,” he said and chased her to the
steps, trying to act like he was horsing around with her.
“The eggs are almost done,” Spot said. “It’s time to eat.”
“I guess you’re right,” she said and turned for the
Spot kissed the top of her head. “You make the best
All American Breakfast,” he said and patted her fanny,
sending her off to the kitchen. He let out an audible sigh
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 232
So far so good. Everything was going as planned. In a
minute, he would eat. In two minutes he would think of an
excuse to get Anna to leave. Everything was under control.
“What’s all the racket down there? Can’t a woman sleep
late after an exciting, wonderful night?”
There was a pause, and Spot looked at Anna who was
standing over the stove, her mouth open and her eyes
“Are you making me breakfast?” Susan called from
upstairs. “The bacon smells delicious.”
Spot and Anna were still locked in a fierce stare, the
tears of betrayal streaming down her face. She started
screaming something in Hungarian, then threw the pan of
cheese and eggs at him. Spot ducked just in time to miss
the eggs, but never saw the pan of hot grits coming. The
creamy grits covered his chest, singeing his already raw
skin, sticking to him like a milder version of napalm.
“Goddamn it!” he yelled. “What’d you go and do that
“You bastard,” she yelled. “You bastard fucking.”
He was not about to correct her. “I’m sorry, honey,”
he said, trying to smear the hot grits off him, but only
spreading the heat, making it worse. He didn’t know what
else to say. The whole idea of being married again still
scared him. He’d already been cleaned out by one woman.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 233
And though he loved Anna, marriage was something he couldn’t
commit to just then. “I’m really sorry, Anna.”
“I am sorry too,” she said, looking around the room as
if for something else to throw. She grabbed her purse,
said, “The wedding is off. I am going home to Hungary. I
have had enough of America. Goodbye!”
“Wait, Anna,” Spot called. But it was no use. She
slammed the big door. A moment later he heard her car start
and speed away.
“I guess my timing was off a little,” Susan said.
“Sorry, Spot.” She stretched to kiss him, being careful not
to smear his grits. “I’ve never had grits like this
before,” she said, and licked him from his belly button to
his left nipple, taking in a huge mouthful of grits.
“Not now, Susan.” He pushed her away and said, “Didn’t
you get my note?”
Before she could answer, she started spitting and
gagging, and grabbing her throat. White grits mixed with
blood spewed pink from her mouth as she ran to the sink.
She turned on the faucet, taking in mouthfuls of water and
spitting them out.
“What the hell is wrong?” Spot asked.
She continued rinsing for a few more mouthfuls, then
rested her head on the sink ledge. “What kind of cologne
are you wearing,” she asked quietly and out of breath.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 234
“Cologne?” And then it dawned on him. “Raid.”
“Wasp spray?” she asked.
“No. Ant spray. Coop gets sugar ants from time to
time. They come up underneath the house.” He stroked her
head. “You going to be all right.”
“Yeah,” she said, very tired. “I’ll be okay.” She
slowly stood up. “Why don’t you fix us a couple of bloody
mary’s. I could use one.”
She looked around the kitchen. Spot noticed she was
still moving a little slow and spitting a lot. “Looks like
I ruined your breakfast,” she said.
He brought the drinks over and handed her one. “That’s
okay. I’ll fix something later,” he said.
“I’ve got a better idea,” she said, sipping the drink.
She seemed in better spirits. “Why don’t I take you out
It didn’t sound like such a great idea to Spot at
first. He had a lot to think about. Anna leaving had left
his stomach in knots, and the grits on him had turned cold
and were beginning to flake off in big chunks, smearing the
hardwood floors. And watching Susan puke bloody grits was
On the other hand, he was not getting married. He was
no longer engaged. He had no emotional ties. And he had to
eat. “But please,” he said. “No grits.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 235
“I promise,” Susan said and managed a smile.
“Let me hose myself off,” he said.
“C’mon. I’ll give you a hand,” Susan offered.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 236
Dorthy wrung her hands as she sat in the cold, white,
almost clinical outer office of the local IRS branch while
young, zealous, government CPAs behind the thick steel door
were kind enough to decide the rest of her life for her.
She got tired of the threatening letters and the harassing
phone calls and wanted to solve this face to face. However,
face to face to them meant through a thick steel door. The
only thing she brought with her was a large brown envelope
containing Garrett’s will.
A chipper young man in circular glasses popped his head
out of the steel door. “Mrs. Halston? Why don’t you come
Dorthy stood slowly. The cold weather was affecting
her knees and knuckles, and sometimes it hurt to stand. She
followed the man along the boundaries of an enormous office
packed with cubicles. Busy little men and women punched
calculators, and made phone calls, and it looked like
circular glasses were standard issue. As she was led into
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 237
Interview Room 10, she wondered what how thick the line was
between interview and interrogation.
“Have a seat there, Mrs. Halston,” the kid said and sat
down. He left the file closed on the table. “Mrs. Halston,
the government has some very absurd rules. Some are
“I’ll agree to that,” she said. The man had a warm
smile and sparkling eyes behind his glasses.
“I’m sure you will. Anyway,” he said, and adjusted his
glasses, “One of those rules has to do with the inheritance
tax. And that’s where our problem lies.” He said it as if
it truly were his problem too. Dorthy was taken aback at
his politeness and his easy manner. She was slowly
beginning to like the man.
“Let me explain how it works. Let’s say a family has
had held property for over a hundred years. We see that
with a lot of farmers, you know. They may have bought the
spread for $10,000 originally. And over the years it’s been
passed on down from generation to generation. Well, this
year, the property is now worth over six-hundred-thousand
dollars, and when it’s passed down to the next generation,
the one who receives the land is going to have to pay
inheritance taxes--up to fifty-five percent. And who’s got
that kind of money laying around? So they, more often than
not, have to sell the property.” He looked across the table
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 238
to her directly. “Does that make sense?”
“No,” she replied.
“Exactly. They need to adjust the inheritance taxes,
along with the capital gains taxes to account for inflation.
So that if you own property you are only taxed on the
increase in value after inflation has been subtracted.
“I think so.” It sounded like the same thing General
Wright was saying on the radio this morning.
“Otherwise people are going to end up selling what’s
rightfully theirs just to give the government a huge chunk.”
“That’s just not right,” she said. “How can you do
“It’s the law,” he said.
“It’s not the law,” she protested. “It’s the tax
code.” Her abruptness startled even her.
The young man leaned back in his seat. “You’re exactly
right. And that brings us to your case,” he said and opened
the envelope. “You see, your late husband Garrett purchased
that diner for $25,000 in 1955. And now, forty one years
later, the diner and the land are valued at $635,000.
$35,000 over the inheritance tax threshold. I doubt it
would have come in that high if the interstate hadn’t been
laid right in front of your diner.” He punched numbers into
the calculator while scanning the file, as if double
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 239
checking his figures. He adjusted his glasses and said,
“And our calculations indicate that the taxes due on it are
“Yes. But I can’t pay that,” she said. “That’s what I
came down here for. To tell you that I can’t pay it.”
“You can’t pay your fair share, Mrs. Halston?”
“Sure I can pay my fair share. I just can’t pay what
the government wants me too.”
“But, Mrs. Halston, that is your fair share.” He
adjusted his glasses again. “We take checks, you know. And
if you need to post-date it a few days,” he said smiling,
“go ahead. I’ll hold it just for you. Just don’t tell my
“You tell me where I am going to get that kind of
money!” she demanded.
He shrugged his shoulders. “You can get an equity
loan,” he said indifferently. “They’re tax deductible,” he
added and closed her file. “Or you could always sell it.”
“I can’t sell it,” she said indignantly. “It’s all I
have. It’s my life.”
“I don’t know what else to tell you.”
She thought for a moment. She needed to know all her
options. “What if I did sell it? Would I have to pay so
much in taxes?”
“Let’s see,” he said and punched on his calculator
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 240
again. “You would still have to pay the inheritance taxes,
and then you would have to pay gains taxes. So lets say you
sold it for its value: $635,000. You would pay $335,500
inheritance taxes and then $219,600 for gains taxes, letting
you walk away with about $80,000.”
“So after forty years of my husband sweating over the
stove, he gets to keep eighty thousand, and you get over
five hundred thousand?”
“$555,100, to be exact. But, yes.”
The man’s arrogant aloofness angered her so intensely,
she pushed away from the table and stood, and in a very
firm, yet polite way, she said, “I’m sure your mother is
very disappointed in you, son,” and left the room.
* * *
“What’d they say?” Tiffany asked anxiously, pouring a
cup of coffee for Dorthy as she walked through the door and
out of the cold late morning. Except for Earl, they were
the only ones in the diner between the breakfast rush and
the lunch crowd.
Dorthy took the coffee. The warmth in her hands was a
welcome relief from the weather. The pain in her knuckles
slowly subsided. “They said we could work something out and
not to worry.”
“Whew,” Tiffany said, pouring herself a cup and
smacking her gum. “That’s a relief. I thought we might
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 241
have to sell this place.”
“I’ve turned down offers in the past and I am not going
to sell now,” she protested.
“I hear you, Dorthy,” Tiffany said.
“Don’t let anyone push you around,” Earl said. “And
get me another slab of pie.”
Dorthy pulled her apron from underneath the counter, as
Tiffany cut the pie.
“Don’t worry,” Tiffany said and put her arm around
Dorthy. “You’re a genius, right?” She squeezed Dorthy for
the answer. “Right?” She squeezed her so close, Dorthy
could smell the gum. Trident--original flavor, she thought
it was. “Everything’s going to work out.”
“If I’m such a genius,” Dorthy said, “why am I sixty
and still working in a diner?”
“It’s part of God’s big plan, Sugar. He’s got a plan
for us all. Me included. How do you think I decided to be
a nail technician?” Before Dorthy could answer, Tiffany
continued. “I was in church and the preacher was going on
about God’s plan and how we are all destine to fulfill his
work. Well, and I don’t know why I did this, but I started
looking at my nails. And they didn’t look too good. And
then I started looking at my mama’s nails and they didn’t
look too good either. Well, then I started looking at
everybody else’s nails in the church that I could see. I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 242
leaned over Dr. Billingsgood and his brand new wife in front
of me, and their nails looked bad. I slowly turned, without
making a scene mind you, and looked at the florist, Mr.
Lightfoot and his friend, Todd,--you know how everybody
looks at them anyway--and their nails looked terrible!
Suddenly, my whole body shivered, I started feeling faint.
I knew I was going to slump down in the pew and cause a huge
commotion. Then, just as quickly as it came, it left. And
it was then that I realized the Lord had just spoken to me
and told me what my role in his master plan was.”
“A nail technician?” Dorthy asked.
“A nail technician,” Tiffany said. “And, you see, I
just think that God has something in store for you more
important that being a waitress at a road side diner. After
that sermon, I know he’s got big plans for you. You’re a
genius after all.”
“I don’t know how,” Dorthy said and slipped by Tiffany
to the dishwasher. She opened up the large door and pulled
the rack out.
“Had any more spells lately?” Tiffany asked.
Dorthy placed a handful of saucers on the rack. “I had
another one this morning.”
“Which kind?” Tiffany asked. “Where you feel alone?”
“No. It’s still like someone’s after me,” she said.
“You haven’t had one like that in years,” Tiffany said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 243
“They’ve been happening a lot more lately,” she said,
dividing the silverware into the basket.
“My mother used to have the same feelings,” Earl said
through a mouthful of apple pie. “Every time one of us
would get hurt she would feel it,” he said. “But if you ask
me, I think she just said it to make us feel guilty.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 244
Coop awoke suddenly from the same Colombian nightmare
that haunted him even during his waking hours. His shirt
was soaked with sweat under his leather jacket. He zipped
his jacket to keep out the chills. Above him swayed the
higher branches of the oaks under which they lay. Within
arms reach, was Kathryn lying on her side, facing him. She
was breathing lightly through her mouth and a little drool
slipped from the corner of her soft, thick lips. Coop
rolled to his side and watched her sleep. She was very
pretty. Smooth, clear skin, thick dark-blonde hair. And
there was something else he could quite put his finger on
that added to her whole beauty. At first it seemed like a
hint of innocence, but that would’ve been lost at the diner.
No one comes out of something like that still innocent. It
was something else. Something he had never seen, or
perhaps, noticed. There was a quality, an aura about her
that lured him to her. She lifted one eye and caught him
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 245
“What are you doing?” she said.
“I thought I saw a spider on you,” Coop said.
She leapt from the sleeping bag and screamed, “A
“I said I thought I saw a spider.”
“There’s no spider?” she said timidly and kneeled on
the bag. “Are you sure?”
“Positive,” he said and lay back down, interlocking his
hands behind his head. He looked up into the blue sky,
through the limbs wavering in the light breeze. The morning
was calm, peaceful, and a little chilly. Out of the corner
of his eye, he saw her doing the same thing. They lay for
minutes without saying a word, completely engrossed in the
movement of the trees.
Kathryn rolled to her stomach and rested her chin on
her fists. She was the first to break the silence. “You
don’t have any children, do you?” she asked.
“No,” Coop said.
“I didn’t think so,” she said. “You don’t look like
“I’m not quite sure how to take that.”
“Ever wonder what kind of parent you’d be?” she asked
turning her head just slightly.
He rolled up to his side to face her. “Sometimes I
think about it,” he said. “You?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 246
“Yeah,” she said softly. “I just think I’m going to
screw the kid up. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do,
or how I’m supposed to act. I never planned on having
“You’ll be a great mom,” Coop said. “Just do what your
mother did. So far you turned out all right.”
“Hmm,” she snorted. “My mom left when I was seven.”
“Then do what your dad did,” Coop offered.
“You think it’s that easy?” she said.
“Was what your father did easy?”
Kathryn paused. “No. I guess not.” She rolled onto
her back and gazed up at the trees. There was another long
silence as they both watched the sky. But the silence
wouldn’t last. “Ever just want to disappear?” she said.
“Just disappear and leave everything behind. Just escape,”
“What the hell do you think I’m doing now?” Coop said.
Kathryn laughed. “I’m not talking about escaping from
some girl. I’m talking about starting your entire life over
“More Americans die in Haiti than in any other
Caribbean country,” Coop said.
She turned her head and gave him a look. “Having our
own conversation, are we?”
“Uh-uh. Death certificates,” he said, “are so easy to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 247
get there. More and more people are going to Haiti to fake
their own deaths and collect their insurance. From then on,
they no longer exist as themselves, and usually for the
first time in their lives, they have no responsibilities and
a wad of cash in the bank.”
“But how? How do they get a new identity?”
“There’s two ways. One semi-legal. The other not so
“What’s the legal way.”
“Our whole existence in proven by two pieces of paper.
Drivers license and Social Security card. Once you get one
of those, you can get anything you need.”
“What about a passport?”
“If you can get an official one,” he said. “They’re
the best. But if you get a cheap fake, you’ll spend a long
time explaining it.”
“Then?” she asked.
“Then what?” he replied.
“Then that’s it,” Coop said. “You’re somebody else.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. But what nobody ever tells you is you
have to live and survive as that new person. You can’t go
back and forth between the old and the new or you’ll go
insane. You can’t even go back to where people knew you.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 248
Can’t access bank accounts, can’t see old friends,” he said.
“Not even for a second?”
“You may be able to get into the banks for a short
time, but once the bank’s been notified, your money’s no
longer your money.”
“What about the friends?”
“They’ll be so shocked they’ll burn you. For most
people it would be the most exciting thing in their life so
they’ll want to tell everybody. And,” Coop said, “they’re
going to be pissed.”
“And they probably wouldn’t come to your next funeral,”
“Good point,” Coop said. “Disappearing is tough to
“I don’t care,” she said. “I’ll do whatever it takes
to get away from McAlpin’s hit squad. That guy at the hotel
came too close,” she said.
Coop rolled to his back. “We’ve got to talk about
that,” he said. “It looks like we’re truly partners now.”
“What do you mean?”
“That guy at the hotel was after me.” He didn’t want
to give her the full story. She didn’t need to know. “We
all have our skeletons,” he said. “But you shouldn’t worry
about that guy.”
“What do you mean shouldn’t? I thought you killed
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 249
“I did. But,” Coop shrugged, “behind every good
“What? His wife?” She pushed away and rocked up to
her haunches. “His wife is after you too? Who the hell are
Coop thought for a moment and decided to tell her a
little about his past. After endangering her, it was only
fair. “A long time ago, I worked for the government.
Mostly overseas,” he added. “This guy, Dmitri, was an arms
dealer for the Russian Mafia.”
Kathryn sat for a minute as if trying to decipher the
information. “So, you’re a spy?”
“Not anymore,” he said. “I quit a few years ago.”
“Why?” she asked.
“I got tired of all the political backstabbing,” he
said and laughed.
Kathryn didn’t get the joke. She scratched the spot on
her neck where Coop said he had seen the spider. “No more
“Something like that,” he said. “I didn’t really enjoy
the last few years. And now I’m just trying to be a nice
“Do you really think his wife will come after you?”
“They’re pretty hell bent,” he said. “They followed me
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 250
“Maybe I can save your life,” she said. “And we’ll be
Coop gave a short laugh. “I don’t think I’d call that
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 251
Dmitri massaged his chest through his shirt as he
looked for a gas station. His bruises were turning a dark
purple, and if he moved wrong, his back would spasm. The
van was far past empty and nothing was in sight. The two
lane road was edged by tall hardwoods and fields. The
scenery reminded him of the summer he had spent in south
Russia when he was a boy, and there were no gas stations
there either. He carefully leaned and tuned in a radio
station, hoping that would keep his mind off his pain. The
only thing he found was the voice of the General.
“...and if you think this is a good thing, people, then
think again. Do this for me. Would you? If you take the
members of the G7 and you divide the number of letters in
their names by lucky number thirteen--from the thirteen
apostles at the last supper. Do you know what you get?
That’s right....666. The sign of the devil. Now tell me
that’s a good thing. Now I know people have called us
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 252
“I wonder why,” Dmitri mutter and flipped off the
radio. The One Stop Snack Shack was on the right, and he
He filled the tank with over 20 gallons, and as he
walked in the store, he realized he hadn’t eaten for awhile.
A long haired clerk stood silent, arms crossed, behind
the counter as loud music played on a cheap boom box. Other
than the clerk and the noise, the store was empty. Dmitri
waded through the unopened boxes junk food, deciding what to
eat. He settled for a couple of Chick-O-Sticks, a handful
of Slim-Jims, two liters of Coke, and a family size bag of
Tostitos. He also picked up a tooth brush, toothpaste, and
some spray-on deodorant.
“Thirty nine dollars, seventy four cents,” the clerk
said, as the register drawer ringed open.
Dmitri reached for his wallet. “Shit!,” he said and
stamped his foot like a child.
“Don’t even try it,” the clerk said unaffected.
“Fuck you,” Dmitri said and pulled his weapon from his
back. “You little hippie. And turn that noise off.”
“Hey, man,” the clerk said, turning off the radio, then
raising his arms, “take what you want. It ain’t my fucking
money.” His eyes darted to the parking lot, and Dmitri’s
A sheriff was getting out of his car, unaware of what
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 253
was going on inside the One Stop Snack Shop. He moved
lethargically out of the car, stopping for a moment as if to
catch his breath.
“Put your hands down and don’t say a word,” Dmitri
said. “Act normal.”
The clerk nodded and stepped back, crossed his arms
looking as aloof as he did when Dmitri walked in. Dmitri
nodded an approval. The hippie was doing good.
But as the Sheriff opened the door, the clerk looked
defiantly at Dmitri and said in a very calm tone, “This
prick is trying to rob me, Jimbo.”
By the time Dmitri turned and raised his weapon, the
sheriff had his gun drawn. From the corner of his eye,
Dmitri could see the clerk slowly reach under the counter
and pull out a double barrel sawed off shotgun.
He was sure that the cop would be the first of the two
to shoot, so he kept the gun on him. The hippie clerk was
probably too scared to fire. Then again with these American
punks, he couldn’t tell.
Dmitri could see the sweat form on the bald cop’s head.
He glanced to the clerk. Nothing. No emotion. No fear.
In a way he respected the hippie’s attitude.
Suddenly, a piercing, intermittent shrill broke the
silence. Dmitri looked down at his beeper flashing and
screaming. With his gun still on the cop, and his eyes
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 254
darting back and forth from the cop to the clerk, he pressed
the button to read the number. He caught the first few
digits and said, “I’ve got to take this.”
Dmitri jerked the trigger sending a round into the cop,
then spun and fired again before the hippie could shoot. As
the clerk fell back into the Trojans and Tylenol, Dmitri saw
the sheriff raise his gun, and planted another two rounds
into the bald head, knocking the cop back to the floor.
Then the clerk made the mistake of squirming, and Dmitri
plugged him with another two.
He gathered the food and the money from the register
and headed out the door. Then as an afterthought, he went
to the beer cooler and pulled out two six-packs of Heineken.
Outside, the road was empty. No cars passed in either
direction, and now that he thought about it, the sheriff’s
car was the first he had seen all morning on that stretch.
So with a slim chance of anyone passing by, and knowing that
he wouldn’t find one for miles, Dmitri put his groceries in
the van and made his call from the pay phones outside the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 255
Beckett and his team of three men arrived at the First
Bank of Nashville precisely at 0830 and knocked on the door.
Beckett flashed a badge through the glass door, and the
teller fetched the manager. A young man with a frightened
look and a cheap suit approached with an overly large
collection of keys.
“Thank you,” Beckett said as he let his men barge
through before him.
“Can I help you,” the young man said.
“What’s your name?” Beckett asked. The boy looked too
young to have keys to a bank.
“Simon. Simon Childers.”
“Well, Mr. Childers, My name’s Beckett, and I’m here to
rob the bank.”
“What?” Childers said suddenly, exciting Beckett.
“Just kidding, boy.” The boy stared with a confused
look as Beckett continued. “Since when do you let in four
men with guns before the bank opens?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 256
“You showed me a badge. I thought that--”
“Is that standard policy?” Beckett demanded. “Or is
this something you do on you own from time to time. You
know like a hobby.”
“No sir. I’ve never done it before. I just thought--”
“Look, Childers. I’ll let this one slide. We’ll keep
it between you and me. But if I catch you letting in four
armed men into your bank, I’m going to have to report it.
And you wouldn’t want something like that on your permanent
“I didn’t think so,” Beckett said. “Now, show me to
the safe deposit boxes and bring me the master keys,” he
said as he handed Childers the paperwork. “I’ve got an
warrant to see box 1343.”
Childers opened the legal papers and scanned them.
“Beckett,” he said, hoping the boy didn’t notice the
“Mr. Beckett,” Childers began nervously, almost
stuttering. “I’ll have to wait for the bank Vice President
before I can open this box. Bank rules don’t allow a head
teller to access individual boxes.”
“But, Childers,” he began, “this box contains evidence
from a serial killer that preyed on young boys. Our
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 257
intelligence indicates that the suspect will come by this
morning to empty the contents. We must reach it before he
does or he could continue to rape and decapitate small boys.
Would you want something like that on your conscience?”
“I can’t,” Childers said. “I’m just the head teller.
I could lose my job.”
Beckett shook his head in disappointment and said in a
sad tone, “I’m sorry, Childers. I thought I was talking
with someone with some authority. I thought you were in
charge around here. We’ll just wait until someone who can
make a decision arrives, no matter how many children will
die,” he said. “That okay with you?”
Childers face turned sour, and he walked away as
Beckett continued. “You know, Childers, there comes a time
when a man is asked to make a life changing decision. He
has to answer the call one way or the other. Some men
decide not to answer and miss out on what could be their
destiny. While others may choose not to follow some rules
laid down by some corporation a thousand miles away and make
a decision that will forever change their life.” Beckett
took a step closer to Childers and held him at arms length
by the shoulders. “Your country is calling, Childers. The
little dead boys are calling. And the little boy that’s
going to be next is calling for you.”
Childers’ back straightened, his face flushed with
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 258
color again, his arms tightened, and he said, “Follow me.
But I have to be there as a witness.”
“Fair enough,” Beckett said and turned to the three men
and told them to wait.
“I’ve never been part of a murder case before,”
“Your mother would be proud,” Beckett said as he was
led behind the tellers.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 259
Beckett entered the Senator’s office as a young page
was leaving. He noticed the kid’s tie was a little off
center and needed to be straightened. McAlpin stood behind
his desk with his back to the door. He was making some kind
of adjustment around his waist. “Evening, Senator,” Beckett
“I didn’t hear Janice buzz you in,” he said.
“It’s after six. She’s gone home,” he said as he
approached the desk and tossed the manila envelope on top of
some pending legislation.
“What’s that?” the Senator asked.
“The disk,” he asked as he hesitantly held up the
“Yes, sir. The disk.”
“Test results back yet,” the Senator asked.
“Yes, sir. No copies have been made.”
“And your positive.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 260
McAlpin sat down in his thick, worn chair. “Very
good.” He seemed upset as he wiped his tired eyes.
“What’s wrong, Senator?”
“Nothing we can’t handle.”
“That damn hate monger on the radio has stirred up such
a controversy that the Senate is ready to start hearings
into the intelligence agencies’ recruitment practices.”
“You mean...But there’s no way they could know. How
could they know?”
“I don’t know. Unless this General has some hard data.
That punk Senator from Florida--the young, idealistic one--
is the one causing all the trouble. He doesn’t know how to
play the game. Sure he’s making his constituents happy, but
he’s pissing off everybody up here.”
“I wonder if the General supplied any information to
him?” Beckett asked.”
“Check it out, Beckett. I don’t want this thing to go
any farther. I can’t chance having him show up at that
hearing with some kind of hard evidence,” the Senator said.
“Fortunately, there is only one loose end to this little
faux pas, and that will be taken care of soon enough.” He
opened the envelope and peeked inside. “Have we heard from
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 261
“He’s close,” Beckett said. “He was headed to the
Grand Canyon, but I told him to intercept them at the
school. It’s only 100 miles from the canyon so I’m sure
they’ll try for the kid.”
“Are we sure her kid is at that one?”
“Positive,” Beckett said. “And they’re ready for them.
The building is secure from the ground up.”
“Very good, Beckett. You’re becoming quite the leader.
I always saw it in you.”
Beckett took pride in his work, and when his boss
noticed, it warmed him. “Thank you, sir. I also gave
Mallory the information on the school. He should be there
in the morning.”
“Now find out anything you can on this Senator from
Florida. Find out if there’s anything we can use against
him to stop his proceeding with his little witch hunt.
Nobody can be so clean that they won’t deal, Beckett. Find
something, and let’s put this thing to bed. This time
tomorrow I want to be free of any loose ends and I want life
back to normal.”
“I’m looking forward to that, Senator.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 262
“Are we there yet?” Kathryn said over the noise of the
“I was beginning to wonder if you had fallen off back
there,” Coop said as he leaned into the turn. It had been a
while since she stopped squishing him and had learned to
relax. They had ridden all night to avoid any traffic or
hired killers. And now, on Kathryn’s directions, were
somewhere in northeast Arizona looking for a town named Sun
The sun coming up behind them cast long shadows ahead.
Coop, feeling a little giddy after riding all night, was
playing little games with the wind and the shadows to keep
awake. He imagined the shadow of his hand swatting rocks,
cans, anything along the road. Kathryn must have figured
out what he was doing, because when he waved to his own
shadow, hers waved back.
The red-brown earth seemed to pulse, promising life.
Since the pre-dawn, the smell of the mesquite fires in the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 263
small villages camouflaged in the hills reminded Coop of the
villages in Central America. And from that memory, spurred
the memory of the boy standing over the bodies of his
* * *
The school was isolated ten miles outside of Sun Dial.
Coop turned off the small highway to an unmarked private
road Kathryn had shown him and wound his way down the drive,
switch backing through a thick grove of hardwoods and pines.
The sharp turns were a common tactic used to prevent
aggressors from gathering any speed when approaching a
target. The government used this practice on in front of
European bases and embassies during the height of terrorism
in the mid-eighties. A series of simple cement barriers,
like those used in highway construction, placed in the road
for vehicles to wind through made it impossible for anyone
on a suicide mission to speed past a checkpoint with a van
full of dynamite. The switchbacks also made egress
difficult. And that concerned Coop.
The small, windy road emptied into a pool of parking
spaces. Fifty feet from the parking lot lay the four story
tan brick building that sat alone in a field red rock and
weeds. A young man stood guard in a small shack just
outside the entrance to the school. Coop stopped the bike
and balanced it between his legs. Something didn’t feel
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 264
right. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.
If this evil Senator, as Kathryn would have him
believe, is after her, he certainly would’ve made
arrangements to intercept them as they came aboard the
grounds. The switchback would’ve been the perfect place.
They wouldn’t put the children in jeopardy, so they wouldn’t
try anything inside the school. If they were waiting to
attack when they left, they could harm the boy. Something
just didn’t add up with this whole plan, and Coop was
beginning to think Kathryn hadn’t been completely truthful
Kathryn swung her leg over the rear tire and
dismounted. “You coming in?” she asked as she removed her
Coop sat for a moment, surveying the area. “I don’t
think so,” he said. “I’d better stay out here.”
Kathryn took a deep breath. “Wish me luck,” she said
and exhaled. “Five minutes,” she said. “I’ll be back in
five minutes.” She handed the helmet to Coop.
“I’ll be here,” he said and gave her the thumbs up.
“Good luck.” He watched her walk to the guard shack where
the guard waved her on through. The guard picked up the
phone and made a call, presumable announcing her arrival.
* * *
Beckett placed the phone back in its cradle on the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 265
Senator’s mahogany desk and beamed. “More good news,
“Who was that?” the Senator asked as he rocked back in
his chair, folding the newspaper in front of him. The
Washington Post had reported that a Senate Investigation
Committee was going to be conducting hearings about Senator
McAlpin’s involvement in the CIA’s agent recruitment
“The guard, sir. She’s arrived at the school.”
“Where’s Mallory?” the Senator asked.
“He’s in Sun Dial and should be at the school in ten
“Is someone with her?”
“Yes,” Beckett said.
“Call the Major and tell him to hold them until Mallory
“Then?” Beckett asked.
“Mallory’ll know what to do,” the Senator said.
“In ten minutes, this’ll be over,” Beckett said.
“Don’t count on it, son. We still don’t know who she
“Some schmuck, it looks like.” Beckett said. “Some
dumb fucking schmuck.”
* * *
Coop walked around his bike for the twenty-seventh time
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 266
and looked at his watch. She’d been in there seven minutes,
and he was getting nervous. The little hairs on the back of
his neck had never lied to him before, and today they were
tell him something was wrong. Deadly wrong. He wasted no
time at the guard shack, he just pushed the boy aside and
yanked the phone from the wall.
Inside, the school was decorated like any other school.
Paintings of war scenes, recruitment posters, OPSEC and
COMSEC warnings covered the gray walls. Signs for the
restroom, written in Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, were
placed above the doorway to the head. A pimple-faced boy
and his tall buddy emerged from the head. They both wore
the uniform of the day: dark blue pants and light blue
shirts decorated with military insignias. The boys were
somewhat surprised to see Coop, but continued their
conversation in Arabic. Coop could decipher some parts.
The pimply one had done well in his martial arts class
earlier, and the tall one was concerned about his calculus
exam. The two crossed the hall and ducked into a classroom.
Coop stopped at the hallway intersection. To the left
lay an empty hall, to the right was an empty office. He was
about to enter the office when he heard a scream and saw a
commotion at he end of the hall. He spun in time to see
Kathryn being shuffled out of sight. It looked like she was
being followed by a group of boys with automatic weapons.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 267
And approaching him were two kids with AR-15s leveled at
Coop. Coop raised his hands in surrender.
The two boys had the peach fuzz faces of fourteen year
olds and wore the same uniform as the others. By the way
they carried their weapons with such determination and
familiarity, it was obvious they were very comfortable with
the Colts. It was the kind of comfort that can only come
from years usage. Coop wondered if they had the same
confidence in their own abilities.
As they approached, the pudgy redheaded kid made the
mistake of letting his muzzle within arms length of Coop.
If the muzzle comes within reach of any prisoner, the weapon
becomes fair game. The prisoner has the opportunity to
deflect the muzzle toward another guard, hoping the first
guard will fire in the confusion, or better yet, with one
clean jerk, snatch the weapon entirely from the guard. So
that’s what Coop did.
Before the chubby redhead could react, Coop snatched
the muzzle, grabbed the stock, and using his momentum, rifle
whipped Chubby’s partner across the jaw. The kid slid
against the wall to the floor, and Chubby’s eyes grew as big
as Howitzer rounds. Coop leveled the weapon on the standing
boy, who, now, was raising his hands over his head.
Coop shook his head. “You got too close,” he said.
“Didn’t they teach you not to get too close?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 268
The boy nodded.
“Ever been a hostage before?” Coop asked.
The boy shook his head.
“I’ll go easy on you then.” Coop pointed to his jacket.
“See this jacket? It’s brand new, and I really don’t want
to get any blood on it,” he said. “So don’t try anything.”
“Yes sir,” the boy’s soft voice managed.
“Let’s go,” Coop said.
They followed the hallway to another intersection. To
the right, Coop could hear a man shouting orders. The boy
led Coop to a thick double door. Coop cracked the door
enough to see through. Inside, Kathryn was surrounded by
more fourteen year olds with more AR-15s. Circling the boys
was a man in his early fifties. He was shaven bald and
sported a small mustache. His muscular arms challenged the
seams in his short sleeved uniform shirt. The insignia
identified him as a Major. His name tag called him Stearns.
His voice was low, but Coop could make out most of what he
“As soon as you left the clinic, we knew you would come
here. Though we didn’t expect you quite so soon.” He
rested his hand on his side arm, what looked to be a Beretta
92F, as if making some kind of passive threat. “We didn’t
expect you to bring your boyfriend, either,” the Major said.
He offered her a chair. “You might as well have a seat
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 269
until your boyfriend shows up.”
“I don’t want to sit,” Kathryn said.
“I think you’ll be more comfortable seated,” he said.
“I don’t want--”
“Sit the hell down!” he belted.
Coop watched the boys trying their best to look
intimidating, but they were too young to grimace. Some
actually looked like they were having a movement. And when
the Major shouted the order for Kathryn to sit, one of
children started to sit down, weapon and all, right where he
stood. Coop waited for his chance when the Major circled
around the group and had his back to the door.
“Ms. Tillman,” the Major began in a calm tone as he
paced, “This school is so secure, it’s worse than a prison.
Sure you can get in, but it’s tough as hell to get out,” he
said his voice raising as he spoke. “You know why?” When
she didn’t answer he continued louder than before, “Because
I’m everywhere. No one gets past me,” he said. The Major
was coming into position. “I’m always around, staring down
the lens of the cameras, haunting the halls like a cold fog.
I am security. I am God,” he pronounced “All knowing, all
seeing, and ever fucking vigilant.”
“I just want my boy,” she screamed.
Her scream was enough to make the Major completely turn
his back on Coop. Coop busted through the doors and grabbed
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 270
the Major in a choke hold and pressed the muzzle of the
weapon to the hairless head. Coop motioned for a now teary-
eyed Chubby to join his classmates.
Children can be trained to kill. Coop had seen it many
times. It occurs in Ireland, Israel, South Africa, and all
over the United States. Children take a distant stance on
killing, as if it really has no effect on them. All they do
it pull the trigger. That’s all. The bullet does the rest.
Their young consciences seem to bury the killing as if it
never happened. That fact makes them more dangerous than
“Bishop! You coward,” the Major said unfazed by Coop’s
hold. “You’re not fit to stand with your classmates. Get
out of formation and quit your crying, or you’ll find
yourself washed out and join Ross in the in the guard shack
for the rest of your miserable life.”
“That’s enough,” Coop said into the Major’s ear.
“Bishop,” the Major said, “You have betrayed your
“That’s enough,” Coop said louder this time. “Let her
go,” Coop said to the boys. “I’m not afraid to use this on
“Don’t do it, men,” the Major said. He turned his head
a bit to direct his speech to Coop. “Are you familiar with
the intricacies of firing squads, sir?” When Coop didn’t
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 271
respond, the Major continued. “In a firing squad, not all
weapons have the ability to kill. It’s a way for the
executioners to deny they had any part in it.”
“You’re point being, Major?” Coop said.
“My point being, sir, is that we employ the same theory
here. Only a few of the rifles have live rounds in them,
and Bishop’s is not one of them.”
Without moving the muzzle from the Major’s head, Coop
put pressure on the trigger. “Tell you what, Major, I’ll
give it a try. If you’re right, you live, if you’re
bluffing, you don’t.”
“I issued the rounds myself.”
“How do you know he didn’t switch weapons with another
kid. You know how boys are always trading things.”
“It’s against school policy to trade weapons or
munitions,” he said casually as if he had been talking about
trading baseball cards. “You keep the weapon you’re
“For your sake, you’d better be right, Major.” Coop
held his breath and braced for the shot. The click of the
firing pin in an empty chamber makes almost no sound. But
this time, it seemed to echo through the halls.
Coop tossed the weapon on the floor behind him,
releasing his grip on the Major.
Stearns slowly turned to Coop and said, “You see, sir.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 272
It was unloaded.”
“Maybe,” Coop said. Then as the Major faced him,
followed with, “But this one’s not.” He pointed the Major’s
own Beretta at the bald, muscular leader of small boys.
“Now, tell them to let the girl go, and put their weapons
The Major nodded, and the boys lowered the rifles.
Kathryn ran to Coop.
“And if I hear even one sound from you boys,” Coop
said. “I’ll pop his ass.” He gave Stearns a brisk shove.
“Let’s go, Major. We have a boy to pick up. We’re going on
a field trip.”
Three classes down, the Major opened the door. A young
instructor in uniform was pacing through the rows of
uniformed students, all about six years old. The Russian
alphabet was displayed over the chalkboard. “Gdia Krasnia
Ployshet?” the instructor said.
“Where’s Red Square?” the class responded.
“Excellent,” the instructor said.
All classified facilities, organizations, and missions
have duress codes. A duress code is usually a unique
codeword used in a sentence by the person in jeopardy to
alert a guard, team member, or someone in authority that all
is not right. Someone maybe watching, listening, or holding
a gun to the person’s back. “Guitar” is one of the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 273
government’s favorites and has become another name for
duress codes in the agencies. “Turnkey” is another.
“No guitars,” Coop whispered into the Major’s ear.
“Just say...What’s the kid’s name?”
“Zachary Montoya,” Kathryn replied.
“Just say ‘I need Zachary Montoya,’” Coop said.
The Major popped his head in the door and did what he
was told. A moment later a small boy with sandy blonde
crewcut marched out. He carried his books with him and
managed to close the door behind him and snap a sharp salute
to the Major.
Kathryn dropped to her knees to look at the child. She
held the boy at arms length, looking him up and down, then
drew him in for a hug and began crying. “It’s you. It’s
you,” she said over and over through the tears.
Still keeping an eye on the Major, Coop lifted the
boy’s chin and looked into his eyes. He had the same green
eyes with the same crying pupils. Kathryn was hugging him
so hard, the boy’s face was turning blue. Her instincts had
once again taken over.
* * *
Mallory slowed the black rented Lincoln for fiftieth
time trying to find the secret road leading the goddamn
geedunk fucking school. Beckett couldn’t draw a map worth
shit. The fairy probably didn’t even know which way north
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 274
was. He’d been searching for twenty minutes now and was
about ready to give up and go for a beer.
* * *
A ruckus at the end of the hall distracted Coop. The
kids had picked up their weapons and were now charging. In
what seemed like an instant, the boys were standing a yard
away, the muzzles again on Coop and Kathryn.
Coop still had control of the Major. The arrogant son
of a bitch hadn’t even tried to get away. It was as though
he thought he was still in complete control of the
situation, even with his own gun at his head.
“They’re trained to shoot the boys who try to leave,”
the Major said. Coop had to give him credit, the Major was
trained well. He was amazingly calm, and that’s tough when
someone is smashing the barrel of a gun in your head.
“You may not care about yourself, Tillman,” Stearns
said. “But I know you care about him. If you give up now,
the boy will be fine. He has no idea what’s going on. It
was all just a drill, we’ll say. He’ll never know.”
Coop looked to Kathryn. She didn’t know what to do.
He had to make the call. “Major,” Coop whispered, still
pressing the gun into Stearns’s head. “You made one
“I doubt that. These boys are highly trained. They
know exactly what to do.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 275
“You said it yourself, you are security. Like a cold
“You’re goddamn right,” he said. “Ever fucking
“But without you, there is no security.” The Major
didn’t respond as if he knew where Coop was leading. Coop
locked his arm around the Major’s neck, applied just enough
pressure against his larynx, and lowered the gun to his
back. “Once you’re gone these lost boys are just that; lost
boys who’ve got no one to tell them what to do, or how to do
it.” The Major struggled under Coop’s strength, but Coop
held tight. He could feel Stearns’s Adam’s apple collapse
as he flexed his biceps. Just as Stearns ran out air and
went limp, Coop angled the weapon and fired. The Major
slipped from Coop’s grip and slid to the floor, resting on
“C’mon!” he yelled at the boys. “Who’s next? You,
son?” he yelled to the biggest one. The faces went from
their attempt at grimace to expressionless and slack. It
looked like they were still trying to figure out what had
The door the classroom sprang open, and the young
instructor stood confused. Coop put the gun on him, “Lay
down, buddy. On the ground. Spread eagle.” The teacher
hesitated. “Don’t be a hero,” Coop said. “I hate heroes.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 276
They always screw things up.” The instructor did as he was
Coop turned to the boys again, looking another in the
eye. “How about you? Want to join the Major?” Then to the
rest he said, “This is the real deal, kids. A real world
incident. I don’t want to hurt any of you. We’re just
going to take this boy and go. That’s all. So put the
weapons down, and we’ll be on our way.” After a what seemed
like ten minutes of silence, the biggest boy lay down his
weapon, then the others followed one by one. “That’s good,
men. Very good.”
The exit was about a hundred yards behind them. Coop
grabbed Kathryn and the boy, and backed down the hall,
keeping an eye on the kids just in case.
Once around the corner, they ran like hell, with Coop
practically dragging Kathryn and the boy. As they
approached the guard house, the guard was braced, ready for
their arrival. But Coop kept walking, pointing the Major’s
gun at the guard. “It’s not worth it,” Coop said. “In ten
seconds you can be alive, or you could be a stain on the
concrete. You make the call.”
“I can’t let you pass,” the guard said, holding the
shotgun on them. Coop could hear the quiver in his voice
and wished he would drop the gun. “The Major would have my
ass,” the guard said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 277
“I wouldn’t worry about the Major anymore,” Coop said.
“He’ll never know.”
“You killed Stearns?” he said.
“He was in my way,” Coop explained. “Just like you.
“You killed the Major?” the guard said again. “You
killed the fucking Major? Major Security? Major God?
Major Ever Fucking Vigilant?”
“I see you got the same speech.” Coop said, and by the
guard’s tone, knew he wasn’t going to shoot.
“Every day, practically,” he said, shaking his head.
“Every goddamn day of my miserable life.”
Coop let him savor the moment of good news. Then,
“Oh, yeah,” the guard said. “Sorry.” He lowered the
gun for them to pass. “Get the hell out of here. This
place will be swarming with people before you know it.”
Coop straddled the bike and started it. He picked up
the little boy and set him near the tank as Kathryn snuggled
close behind Coop. She reached around Coop’s waist to hold
the boy, and Coop didn’t mind a bit.
As they turned and passed the school, the guard was
walking across the parking lot away from the school, away
from the Major. Away.
All that lay between the three and a clean escape were
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 278
the switchbacks. Coop couldn’t move any faster that ten
miles an hour and still take the turns. Going straight
meant crashing through trees, rocks, and any type of man-
made device meant to discourage passage. He had to stick to
the single lane road. If those boys carried live rounds,
there was no doubt the shoulders of the roads were mined.
He stole a glance to the road’s edge, and an exposed metal
object caught his eye confirming his suspicions.
But the hairs on his neck were laying down again, his
heart was slowing, and his grip on the throttle was
relaxing. Kathryn gave him a tight hug, then patted him on
the shoulder as she tried to say something over the rumble
of the engine.
Coop cocked his head toward her, looking away from the
road for a second. “What?” he said and cupped his ear.
Kathryn said something he still couldn’t hear and when
Coop looked forward again, his reflexes slammed on the
brakes. The three on the Harley stood face to face with a
3000 pound Lincoln.
Coop waited as Kathryn sat silently. She was doing
good. She was remaining calm under pressure. Of course she
had no idea the place was mined. Coop pushed the bike back
hoping to get some room, but the Lincoln inched closer.
Only one way in and one way out. One way in and one
way out. No room to turn around. No where to run. One way
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 279
in and one way out.
Coop yelled for his passengers to hold on, up-clicked
twice, and as he let the clutch out sharply, the three
lunged forward as the bike took off backwards.
Just as Coop thought, the Lincoln tried to follow,
leaving the exit open. So Coop jammed the bike into first,
lifting the front tire inches off the ground. He yanked the
throttle back, and ducked and danced with the car as it
attempted to block him. Then just as Coop thought he had
the opening to the drive, the Lincoln jumped in front of
him, and Coop’s front tire bounced off the Lincoln’s front
tire. Coop had barely enough time to catch Zack from flying
over the handlebars.
With the bike and car at a standstill, Coop waited,
watching for movement inside the car. The car was
completely blocking the only way out. On the other side of
the car’s hood, lay the switchbacks and open road. And
every square inch of the land off the lot was mined, leaving
the only route of escape through the car.
Coop lifted Zack from his seat on the gas tank and
tucked him between Kathryn and him. He pulled Kathryn’s
hands across his stomach as tight as he could, locking the
boy between the two. He hit the throttles twice, up clicked
twice and released the clutch. The force threw the combined
weight of Kathryn and Zack into him, straining his arms. As
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 280
the bike raced backward, gaining speed, Coop knew this was
his only hope. He was either going to flip the bike,
spilling all three onto the ground, or not be able to
maintain the elevation of the front wheel. It was something
he’d never tried before, and hoped it would work. When the
bike reached a speed of twenty five miles an hour, Coop had
to test his theory.
He slammed on the rear brake, jammed the gear pedal
down, forcing the bike into first, causing the inertia to
lift the front wheel off the ground. He gave the big bike
enough gas to keep the bike up, riding the wheelie thirty
yards to the car, aiming for its front tire as the site of
Behind him Kathryn screamed, and Zack held tight. Coop
needed as much speed as he could get to make it work. He
shifted into second, fighting to keep the wheel up, and the
bike at a forty five degree angle.
As he raced toward the car on one wheel, he tensed his
arms, bracing himself for the impact and the weight of his
passengers against him. At thirty miles an hour, the 170
pounds behind him were going to feel like over a thousand if
his idea didn’t work.
The bike punched into the car at just the right angle,
just at the right place. The frame, under the engine,
caught the upper edge of the car’s side, the back tire
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 281
bounced off the car’s front tire, sending the rear end up,
leveling the bike on the hood, and all but stopping the
momentum. Coop stiffened under the lurching weight behind
him as he fought to control their landing. When the front
tire hit, he felt the Kathryn’s face against his shoulders,
and the boy smashing into his lower back. As the back tire
hit the ground, he shifted into first. And when he felt
Kathryn’s grip tighten again, and knew his cargo was safe.
He negotiated the winding drive, and found the open highway.
In the distance he heard an explosion, presumably as the
Lincoln tried to navigate the exit too fast.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 282
“Okay,” Tiffany said. “Here’s one. Take the total
amount of the checks today and divide it by the total number
of customers today.”
“Piece of cake,” Dorothy said. “Five dollars, thirty
“All right, smarty pants. Try this. Add the total
number of checks, multiply it by the day of your birthday,
then divide it by my age, then give me the...what’s that
where you divide the number in half and you get--”
“Two?” Dorothy asked.
“Duh...no. It’s something else,”
“That’s it. Divide it by my age and give me the square
“Fourteen point three one five.”
“My God, dear Jesus,” Tiffany said. “How do you do
Dorothy shrugged. “Don’t know,” she said. “Just can.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 283
She was setting a BLT down in front of Lester, the trucker
that come in from Sydney every other week, when she heard
Tiffany. “Uh oh. Look who it is.”
The thin, little man from the government came in
adjusting his round glasses, smiling. Two bigger men--which
wasn’t really saying much--followed behind him.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Halston,” he said.
“It was,” she replied.
“Remember me?” he said, full of cheer, in want of her
“Yes. I remember you,” she said void of any emotion.
“You’re the little boy from the government.”
“Yes mam,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind, but we’ve
come to take another look at the place.” He handed her a
folded packet of papers.
“What’s this?” she asked.
He held up a finger to stifle her, then nodded to his
men. One took out a clipboard, the other a calculator and
off they went, walking around the diner writing and
calculating. “That gives us permission to look around and
to take a few notes.”
“Notes for what?”
“Notes to help us decide whether we want to sell the
place or just demolish it.”
“What?” She said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 284
“We might be able to make more if were to hold a public
auction of the fixtures. You know, the sum of the parts is
greater than the whole.”
“Then demolish it? But why?”
“Why not?” he said. “It’ll be easier to sell the land
without the diner. A developer could put up a nice hotel
here. Maybe even a Cracker Barrel. I love Cracker Barrel.”
“The hell with Cracker Barrel. You have no right to my
land. I’m trying to raise the money. I’ve got some time
“Of course you do,” he said. “And you’ll be able to
raise a third of a million dollars in a month. I’m sure of
She didn’t know whether it was his tone or his audacity
that set her off. “Now you look here, you little squirt,”
she said and vaulted over the counter, landing toe to toe
with the boy. She was about two inches taller than he. All
the diner noise stopped. Everyone was listening. “You take
your papers, take your goons, and get the hell out of my
diner. And if you don’t stop harassing me,” she said.
“You’ll what?” he said smugly, taunting her.
“Just get the hell out,” she said, trying to regain her
composure. “Get out now.”
“Fine,” he said, nodding to his men. “But we’ll be
back. You can count on that.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 285
“Thanks for the warning,” she said, opening the glass
door for them. “Next time bring a warrant if you want to
come on this property or I’ll call Sheriff Wiggins on you
“Don’t you worry, Dorothy,” he called. “We wouldn’t
dare do anything against the law.”
The cowbells thunked as she pulled the door shut. She
retied her apron. It had come loose when she went over the
“Honey, I never seen you move like that before,”
Tiffany said. “You were like Wonder Woman back there.”
Dorothy arched her back, trying to stretch the muscles.
“I won’t be tomorrow. My arthritis is going to be
bothering me for days,” she said and began refilling Earl’s
coffee. “I wish this cold weather would go away, and warm
sunshine would fill my life.”
“You and me both, sister,” Tiffany said. “By the way,”
she said, arranging parsley on a plate. “Did you see his
nails? They were awful.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 286
“What the hell happened to Mallory?” the Senator
yelled, leaning across the mahogany desk, slinging saliva
across the room, his knuckles turning white under his load
as he screamed. “I thought you told me he was going to
intercept them at the school? You told me he was going to
intercept them at the school. Didn’t you?”
“Yes sir,” Beckett said from the leather wingback. He
was almost out of spitting range of the old man, but the
manila envelope he held in his lap was quickly spotting from
the Senator’s sloppy tirade. Lately, with the hearings a day
away, and the woman still loose, the tongue-lashings had
become more commonplace and, more often than not, Beckett
felt as if he should be packing an umbrella during his
meetings with the Senator. “They must have driven all
night,” he offered. “Stearns said they got there just as
the first bell sounded. The Major tried to hold them, but
the guy she’s with pulled a gun.”
“Any idea who he is?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 287
Beckett opened his spit spotted envelope. “We took
these from the security cameras at the school.” He leaned
forward in the chair and placed the envelope on the desk.
“This is the tricky part, sir. Lab says--,”
“Tricky part? I’m tired of tricky parts.” McAlpin
rubbed his eyes with his fists. “Where’s Mallory now?”
“Headed to the Grand Canyon,” Beckett said.
“They still have the kid?”
“Not sure. We think they do,” Beckett said adjusting
himself in the chair.
“I’m beginning to feel she’s not in this alone. She’s
got to have a support network.” The Senator thought for a
minute. “And that’s fine. Because she can’t hide forever.
She’ll show up one day, and I don’t care when it is, I’ll
be waiting for her. If we don’t get to her, and she fucks
anything up, she’ll always have to look over her shoulder.”
Beckett leaned forward in his seat and spoke in a soft
tone, trying to sound a little more confident than he was.
“Sir, we’ve recovered everything she’s taken. The only
damage she can do now is testify about what she stole. And
that’s all hearsay and speculation,” Beckett said and leaned
back. “Don’t worry. We’re going to find her and the kid.”
Beckett leaned forward again and pushed the envelope closer
to McAlpin. “But I still think you need to see this.”
“What the hell is this?” he said as if it were wasting
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 288
his time. He stretched over his belly and opened the
Beckett let him stare at the picture for a moment
before saying anything. “That’s the guy she’s traveling
with. He’s the one that pulled the gun on the Stearns.
It’s a little fuzzy, but they were able to I.D. him. The
guy’s name is--,”
“Cooper Sumner,” McAlpin said.
“You know him?”
“Yes,” the Senator said and casually, and, perhaps out
of frustration, flipped the envelope on the desk.
“Says here he was a government employee up until a
couple of years ago. It gives no reason why he left.”
“He lost his edge,” the Senator said. “He went weak.”
The Senator leaned back in his chair, crossed his hands
across his broad width and said, “Well, at least that’s what
Beckett picked up the envelope and began reading the
docier. “It says in here somewhere,” he began, searching
for an entry. “Here it is. It was one of his last
missions. He snapped and murdered a whole family.” He
fingered down to the last page. “Last reported as homeless,
drifting somewhere along the Gulf Coast, in and out of rehab
centers.” Beckett shook his head. “What a fucking loser.”
“Oh, I don’t think Mr. Sumner is a loser,” McAlpin
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 289
said. “Where’d you get that information?”
“Pulled of the agency’s computer,” Beckett said.
“Use any special codeword?”
“No. Just my password.”
The Senator said, “That’s what I thought. That’s just
the IAA file.”
“The IAA file?” Beckett asked. “Never heard of it.”
“Not even you know everything, Beckett,” the Senator
said. “The IAA file, known as the If Anyone Asks files. is
actually, the Intelligence Agents Attrition file. That’s
what we tell other people. It’s a way for the agencies to
handle inquiries about former agents from other branches of
the government or from other agencies,” the Senator said.
“At first, of course, we vehemently deny that the person
ever worked for the agency. Then, we’ll finally concede and
show them the person’s file. The little ditty at the end is
meant to discourage contact.”
“Who’d want this loser anyway,” Beckett said.
“It’s all a bunch of bullshit.” The Senator picked up
the photo again and stared at it. “Coop was one of the best
we ever had. He was blessed,” he said. “I guess his
conscience got to him. He lives in a huge house on the
beach and from what I understand, just asked a girl to marry
“How sweet,” Beckett said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 290
“So what do we do about him?”
“Sadly,” the Senator said, “the same thing you’re going
to do with the girl. And you’d better do it quick. That
little punk Senator from Florida is all over my ass with
these hearings. He says he’s got enough evidence to end it
in one day, or drag it on as long as he wants.”
“It sounds like, sir, he thinks he can either give you
a quick death or a slow painful one.” Beckett leaned back
into his chair. “But either way, there’s death.”
“We’re not going down easy, Beckett. I’ll tell you
that. Not easy at all. I’ll drag these fucking hearings
out for goddamn years if I have to. Without that girl, they
don’t have shit.”
“Goddamn right, sir,” Beckett said and stood, ready to
leave. He picked up the files and stuck them in his
“Hold on, Beckett,” the Senator said. “One more
thing.” The Senator stood, facing Beckett and in a grave
tone, said, “When Mallory calls in, don’t give him Sumner’s
“Why’s that?” Beckett asked.
“Just don’t,” the Senator said.
“Sure, Senator,” Beckett said and turned to leave.
“And, Beckett, there’s something else you need to know
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 291
It was 102 miles of gray asphalt and red hills, and
little Zachary was loving life. He kept turning around
grinning at Coop. The boy was missing one of his lower
front teeth, and Coop wondered if the tooth fairy had ever
visited him at the school.
It was a story that he had never grown up with and he
doubted Zachary had either. He had only heard of it a few
months ago at Spot’s. They were all sitting around the bar,
and someone mentioned the tooth fairy.
“Tooth fairy? What the hell’s a tooth fairy?” Coop
“Bull shit,” Spot said in amazement. “You’ve never
heard of the tooth fairy? Everyone’s heard of the tooth
“Even me,” Anna chimed.
“What does this tooth fairy do?” Coop asked.
“He sneaks--” Spot began.
“She sneaks, honey,” Anna said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 292
“I believe it’s a he, Anna. All tooth fairies are
he’s. It’s a fact.” Spot uncapped Coop’s next beer.
“Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. He sneaks into your room
late at night--”
“If a tooth fairy is going to slip into my room,” Coop
said, “I’d rather it be a she.” Coop took a sip of the new
beer. “So they sneak into your room and...,”
“To take your teeth,” Anna said.
“Why the hell would I want anyone taking my teeth?”
“Jesus, man. Where did you grow up? Mars?” Spot
shook his head and wiped the counter under Coop’s beer, then
got him a coaster. “He doesn’t take all your teeth,” Spot
said. “Just the ones you lost.”
“In return, he leaves you money,” Anna said.
“How much?” Coop asked.
“When I was a kid, it was usually a quarter a tooth.
But with inflation and all, I’m sure they’re over a buck
each by now.” Spot poured himself a beer. “It probably
goes up right along with the minimum wage,” he added.
* * *
Now, with the broken white line blinking underneath
him, Coop tried to imagine Major Stearns sneaking in late at
night and swapping a bloody tooth for a buck or two. He was
beginning to realize that he might have a little more in
common with Zachary than he originally thought. Though he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 293
had enjoyed his childhood, it wasn’t until he went into the
Naval Academy that Coop realized that he had grown up under
a different set of rules, values, and beliefs than the rest
of America he was trained to protect.
In front of him, Zachary kept turning and beaming.
Turning and beaming a big one-missing-tooth smile. Coop had
given Zachary his helmet, and now with the big helmet
bobbing on his little blonde head, Coop could really see the
resemblance of his two passengers. One, a Chief’s fan, the
other a Harley man. And both with the black pupils dripping
on their jade irises. They were mother and child, and now
it was his job to protect them both. Maybe it was seeing
the tears in Kathryn’s eyes back at the school, seeing her
son for the first time. Maybe it was that his feelings for
Kathryn had been growing for the past few days. Whatever it
was, it made him reach behind him and pat Kathryn on the leg
in a loving, affectionate way. He was on his most important
mission ever and he was not going let them down.
Coop looked down at Zachary. He wasn’t beaming
anymore. He was grabbing his crotch, mouthing something.
Coop leaned down to hear.
“Latrine,” the boy said. “I’ve got to go.” It was the
first words Coop had heard the boy say.
Coop nodded. Up ahead stood an huge barrel cactus, its
thick arms pointing down as if it was shrugging its
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 294
shoulders. A road turned off just after it, and Coop
followed it. It led them up a the side of a small mountain.
They had plenty time for a short detour, so he followed the
road four miles until it abruptly ended at the top of a
mountain. Coop kicked the stand down and turned off the
engine. The silence was overwhelming. The slight wind was
only sound. In front lay the ridges and valleys of red,
brown, purple. It was a part of America he had never seen
before and it was inspiring.
“Pit stop,” Coop said, and lifted the boy to the
ground, whispering, “Watch out for snakes,” into his little
ear. Zachary ran to the nearest rock and began. Coop felt
Kathryn swing her leg over the bike and caught her just as
she started after the boy.
“But he might need me,” she said in protest.
“I think he’ll do fine,” Coop said. “He’s managed for
five years already.”
Still, they both couldn’t help but watch protectively
as Zachary relieved himself. When he finished and turned
around, Coop and Kathryn averted their eyes like they had
never looked. The boy meandered back to the bike eyeing the
rocks and the bushes, as if hoping something would pop out.
“Is there a ladies room?” Kathryn asked.
“Right there,” Coop said, pointing to a boulder large
enough to offer total privacy. But let me check it out
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 295
first. They’re could be--”
“I’ll be fine,” she said bravely and briskly walked to
the rock. “I’ve managed too, you know,” she called as she
rounded the corner. “And for a lot longer than five years.”
“But they’re might be--,” he tried, but stopped when he
saw her step slowly methodically backwards, away from the
rock. “Snakes,” he said. He jumped off the bike and ran
toward her, looking for a stick. As he neared her, he could
hear the rattle.
“Stop. You’ll scare it,” she said. “I don’t want you
to scare it.”
“I’m not going to scare it,” he said and approached
closer. It was at least a seven foot rattler.
“It’s going to bite me,” she said in a panic.
“Can you blame him?” Coop asked under his breath,
creeping closer, slowly, watching the snake’s eyes. If
Kathryn moved a fraction of an inch, the snake would strike.
He had to preoccupy her. “How would you feel if you were
catching some rays in your favorite chair, and somebody came
up and wanted to pee all over you?”
But Kathryn moved just enough to make the snake lunge,
and Coop snatched her from the strike zone. She landed in
his arms, and Coop held tight. Their faces were inches
apart. Their eyes close. She had two drops of pupil in her
left eye and three in her right. Her soft, moist lips at
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 296
the perfect angle for the perfect kiss. He imagined her
mouth on his, and wondered if she was thinking the same.
“Jesus,” she said pulling away. “You almost ripped my
arm off. I don’t think you realize how strong you are.”
He released his grip. “Sorry,” he said. “But it sure
beats a bite in the ass.”
She walked back to the bike where Zachary was waiting
quietly, watching them.
“How you doing, Zack?” Coop said.
“Are you having fun?”
“Yes sir,” he checked his watch. “But it’s almost time
for flash cards. I have to practice my Russian.”
“What time does that start?” Coop asked.
“Fourteen thirty,” the boy replied.
Coop leaned to Kathryn’s ear and whispered, “That’s two
She playfully smacked his chest, “I know,” she said.
“Zack, I can help you with that. What do you say we
take a breather from the road, and practice sentences pa
“Da,” said the boy.
“Hadasho,” said Coop.
* * *
“...it’s a deal made with body bags. America is
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 297
selling all its technology to the Asian counties,” General
Wright said. “The same countries that put hundreds of
thousands of America fighting men in body bags over the
years. If you don’t believe me friends, perhaps you’ll
believe today’s guest, Dr. William J. Huffington, an
engineer who was recently laid off by one of the big greedy
techno-companies when he threatened to blow the whistle on
the shenanigans going on in the pacific rim. “Tell me, Dr.
Huffington, what clued you in that we were selling computer
parts to Vietnam?”
“Well, General. I hate to say this--but I’ve got
nothing to loose--it’s much deeper than that.”
“Oh yes. For years, the American government has been
subsidizing the commie Vietnamese government. And with
NAFTA and GATT, they’ve been sending America jobs overseas
to the rice fields of that country. So now hard working,
tax paying people in Middle America have lost their jobs to
the same people that killed their fathers, sons, and uncles.
It’s just not right, General.”
“They called us crackpots, but look whose shaking their
head in disgust now. And we’ll be back.”
An ad for pocket watches came on, and Dmitri flipped
the dial off. This radio-asshole was growing on him, and
Dmitri had an impulse to pull over at the nearest phone and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 298
call the show and give him some real news. He’d start with
the joint training exercises in Central America with
American troops during the seventies when there was a plan
between the Soviets and America to take over Africa. From
Libya to Liberia was going to belong to America, along with
all of South Africa. The Soviets were going to have the
remainder, except for Kenya which would have been a joint
venture amusement park/nature ride, and that’s what the
black helicopters were for: to shuffle people to the
different parts of the park.
That’s what he would tell that radio-asshole. He would
tell him that and then laugh for miles. It would sure break
up the boredom. The trip was so fucking boring, he was
looking for anything along the road to entertain him. The
only thing he saw the least bit entertaining was a couple of
miles back he had seen a cactus with its arm down, like it
was shrugging his shoulders. He remembered laughing at
that. Laughing at that more than the asshole on the radio.
He was a paranoid idiot. But it was fun listening to him.
It broke up the monotony of the fucking trip to the Grand
Canyon. God, Amerika sucks.
* * *
Kathryn watched the two men from a distance as Coop
practiced language lessons with the boy. Initially she was
hesitant about continuing any programs from the school, but
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 299
since Coop knew the language, this would give her more time
to figure out how to tell her son the truth. Coop and
Zachary were laughing and playing the way boys do. She
tried to understand what they were saying but it was mostly
in Russian. Whatever it was, it had Zachary laughing almost
to the point of tears.
Coop was doing great with her son. He had a special
way with people and it came through with her son. It was as
if as soon as you met him, you feel as though he’s been your
friend for life. It seems he knows everything about you,
but no matter how long you talk, you still don’t have a clue
about him. It was a certain charm he had, and she had been
taken by it. She had done everything she could to not pull
away when they’re faces were inches apart. She wanted to
feel his scratchy face with the day’s growth, to kiss his
smiling chin, feel his arms around her. But she had to wait.
Until her son was safe, she wasn’t going to add any more
figures into the equation.
It had been an incredible act for him to help her, and
she felt guilty for involving him the way she had. But
looking back, there was no way she could have done this
without him. Even with the help of Jonas: all the maps, the
timetables, the help at the bank, the information from the
clinic, it would have been impossible without Coop. Had she
been alone, she knew she would have panicked. But Coop came
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 300
through for her, and for that she was thankful. She
wondered if the pat on her leg was of any significance, or
if he was just checking on his golf club.
Though she had planned for this moment for months, she
was dreading the next few minutes. She had everything she
wanted to say in her head, but somehow she knew it was going
to come out wrong. But she had to begin. “Hey Coop,” she
called. “Think I could have a minute with Zachary?”
Coop looked up from a rock. “I got some work I can do
on the bike,” he said. “Call me if you need me.” He sent
the boy to his mother and headed to the bike.
“Coop!” Kathryn called. She couldn’t do this alone
either. As Coop turned again, Kathryn said, “Could you just
sit by. I could use some moral support.”
Coop smiled, the whiteness of his teeth barely emerging
from his darkened image. The sun looked as if it was
resting on his right shoulder, half-shadowing his chiseled
face. The other half glistened with the reflection of the
sun on sweat and stubble. He stood before her, towering
over her, and Kathryn felt the familiar shudders again. The
same shudders she had when he saved her at the restaurant,
when he held her after saving her from the snake, and when
he patted her on the leg.
“You’ll do fine,” Coop said. “But if you’d feel
better, I’ll stay.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 301
“Please,” she said and touched his hand. “Zachary,”
she called and cleared off a place on the rock across from
her. “Come here and sit down. There’s something we need to
“Yes mam,” he said and sat down, his back erect, his
heels together. “What would you like to talk about?” he
said in the most polite tone. It was almost too polite.
“I’ve been planning for this day for quite some time,”
she said. “You see, that school you go to is for children
that don’t have parents. Right?”
“All your friends don’t have a mommy and a daddy.
Right?” she said and wished she could start over.
“Yes, mam. Neither do I. My parents were killed in a
car crash on the way to the hospital the day I was born, and
nobody would adopt me.”
He said it so matter of fact that listening to him made
her tear up again. He was the little boy all alone. She
tried to hold back, but couldn’t. She wiped a tear before
she could continued. “Honey,” she said. “That’s not true.
You were taken from your mother when you were born.”
He looked at her puzzled. “Why didn’t she look for
me?” the boy asked.
“Honey,” she began. “She’s was told you were gone.”
“Dead?” he asked.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 302
“Yes,” she said as a tear found the corner of her eye.
She grabbed his small pale hands. “Zachary,” she said and
tried to swallow. “I’m your mother.” She waited for a
response, and it came after a moment of small child
“How do you know?” he asked.
That one threw her. “Because I’ve tried to find you.
Ever since I knew you were all right.”
“How do I know?” the boy asked.
“Look at my eyes,” she said. “What do you see?”
Zachary leaned in. “You have tears like I do,” he said
smiling. “The other kids always made fun of me because of
my eyes,” he said. “Did they make fun of you?”
“When I was your age, yes they did,” she said wiping
another tear. “I have them, my father has them and so did
Zachary looked into Cooper’s eyes as if to see if his
were crying, and said, “Are you my father?”
“No,” he said. “But your such a big strong boy, any
father would be proud to have you as a son.” Kathryn
mouthed a silent thanks to him.
“Where is my father?” Zachary asked.
That was another tough one. She had lost contact with
Zack’s father, a man she had only known for a short time.
It would be easy for her to say he died so there was some
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 303
finality, but she didn’t want to start out her relationship
with her son with a lie. But she also didn’t know how to
explain the mistakes adults make to a six year old. There
was no chance the father was ever going to play a role in
Zack’s life. She had heard he was married, had four kids, a
house and a dog. And it would be completely unfair to open
Zack to the possibility such rejection if the boy pressed to
see his father. Her parenting books my frown upon lying to
children, but in this case, it was her only choice. “He
passed away about two years ago.”
Zack looked to Coop, then back to Kathryn. “Do I have
to go back to school?”
“Not that one,” she said. “But eventually, another
“I don’t like my school. Major Stearns is mean.”
She pulled him close for a hug. “Don’t you worry about
that, buddy. You never have to see him again.” She held
him tight, not letting go. “There is something else,” she
said. “There are some people who are going to be after us.
So I have to leave you with someone safe. Someone who will
take care of you for a few days,” she said. “Cooper and I
have to throw the people off course. We don’t want them
following you. But as soon as I get back, from then on,
it’s going you and me.”
“What about him?” he said, pointing to Coop. “Is he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 304
coming back with you?”
“Coop has been very helpful in finding you,” she said,
dodging the question, as well as her feelings. “We owe a
lot to him,” she said and looked over to Coop, lobbing the
ball into his court.
“I like him,” Zachary said. “One hadasho gabareech par
Coop smiled. “You speak Russian well too, Zachary.”
He mussed the boy’s tow-head. “I’ll be around to help for a
little while,” he said. “Then we’ll see,” Coop diverted his
eyes to Kathryn, lobbing the ball right back.
“I think it’s time we get back on the road,” Kathryn
“You’re right,” Coop said standing. “We’ve got a lot
of ground to cover. And I’ve got to find a phone.”
“We’re burning daylight,” the boy said, looking to Coop
“We sure are, Harley man,” Coop said and mussed the
boy’s head again. “But this time, keep your mouth closed
and you won’t get so many bugs in it. And don’t forget to
wave at all the other bikers. Even the imports.”
“Yes, sir,” the boy said.
* * *
“Fucking geedunk state. Nothing here but goddamn
cactus, sand, and...,” Mallory looked at the landscape,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 305
hoping to find something to liven up his trip to the Grand
Canyon. “More goddamn cactus and sand.” He eyed the
speedometer. He was topping a hundred. Though the mine had
only blown out the left rear tire, the car only had one of
those geedunk small spares. And the fucking geedunk spare
detracted from the Lincoln’s elegance, grace, and power.
The sign said he had eighty miles to the Grand Canyon
so he popped in a Tony Bennett CD and sang along. Hearing
himself sing always put him at ease. He eyed the corner of
the rearview from time to time as he belted out the big
notes, one time almost drifting off the side of the road.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 306
Coop used the small blade of his Swiss Army knife to
scrape the road dirt trapped beneath his nails as he waited
for his call to go through. They had only been on the road
an hour when he had found a gas station, and now Kathryn and
Zachary were using the bathroom again, as he waited for Spot
to pick up the phone.
“‘Lo,” Spot grumbled into the phone.
“Wake up you lazy bastard,” Coop said. It felt good to
talk to someone from home.
“Coop? That you? I thought you had fallen off the
edge of the canyon, man. Where’ve you been?”
“I fill you in later. Things are getting a bit hectic.
I need you to do me a favor. There’s an aluminum case
upstairs in my office. Send it to me.”
“Ft. Knox is locked, Coop. I can’t get in there.”
“Punch 62345 into the keypad. Send it to the Mail
Boxes Etc in Grand Canyon. Tell them to hold it for me.
Use my Fed Ex number and overnight it.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 307
“Roger that,” Spot replied.
“Now,” Coop said, able to relax somewhat. “How’s the
“Sorry, man. She hasn’t turned up yet.”
“Have you been putting food out?”
There was a pause on the other end. “Well, yeah. I
“What do you mean, you guess? Either you have or you
haven’t. Which is it?”
“I put some out the first week, but she never came
around. I told you that.”
“Have you put any out since?”
“Jesus, Spot,” he said. “I’ll get Anna to take care of
There was another pause, a little longer than the
first. “That’s going to be kind of hard, Coop,” Spot said.
“She caught me with Susan Chang. Anna was so mad she threw
grits on me and stormed out the door. I think she went home
to Hungary. Nobody’s seen her since.” His voice dropped to
almost a whisper. “Man, I miss her so bad. I don’t know
what to do.”
“Hang in there, Spot. She’ll turn up.”
“I hope so. But if she doesn’t, I’m going to do
exactly what you did.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 308
“What’s that?” Coop asked.
“Swear off girls. From now on, man, just like you, I’m
swearing off girls.”
He looked over to Kathryn walking back to the bike with
her son. She gave him a wave and a wink, almost as if she
were listening to the conversation, trying to torment him.
“I said that?” Coop asked. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. At the bar. Just before you took off.”
“I’m having a hard time remembering that,” Coop said.
“Look, I’d better go.”
“I’ll send the package out today,” Spot said. “Don’t
worry. It’ll be there.”
“Thanks,” Coop said. And just as he hung up the phone,
He watched Kathryn, kneeling, talking to Zachary eye to
eye. With her hair fixed, and in the flattering light of
setting sun, she looked like a cross between a supermodel
and a supermom. “Did I swear them off forever?” Coop asked.
“Forever,” Spot replied.
“Look. In the future, don’t let me make anymore life
changing decisions after more than six beers.”
“Don’t worry, man. I didn’t take you seriously,” Spot
Coop hung up the phone and walked back to his bike.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 309
Kathryn straightened as he approached.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“My cat’s starving to death, and Spot’s fiancé left
him. Other than that, everything’s fine.”
“Spot? That’s an odd name. How’d he get it?”
Coop looked at the boy then to Kathryn. “I’ll tell you
later.” He looked at the setting sun. “You need to make
your call so we can get outta here.”
“We’re burning daylight,” Zachary said.
“I’ll just be a minute,” she said, leaning down to kiss
the boy’s cheek. She walked to the phone, and Coop for the
first time noticed her walk away. She had slim, well shaped
hips, and he wondered what her calves looked like. Calves
make the legs. A perfect set of calves could...He felt a
tug on his jacket and looked down.
“Yes?” he said.
“Where are we going from here?” the boy asked.
“Your mom is getting directions,” he said, running an
open hand against the back of the boys head where his
military cut was the shortest, feeling the bristles ping
against his palm. It was one of the best parts of a
crewcut. “How are you feeling about all this?” Coop said.
“What do you mean, sir?”
The boy shuffled his feet. “All right, I guess. I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 310
think it will be fun to have a mom. None of my other
friends do,” the boy said. “Do you?”
Coop shook his head.
“Where’s your mom?”
“I never had one.”
“You can borrow mine,” he said as if it were done every
“Thanks,” Coop said. He might just take the kid up on
“What about your dad?”
“I don’t have a dad either. I have a mother, but not a
father. What do father’s do?” Zachary asked.
Coop watched Kathryn on the phone. She was writing
direction on a piece of paper, and intermittently shaking
the ink to the bottom of the pen. “Fathers throw the ball
with you. They teach you to run faster. They help you
“Like a coach?”
“Yes. But much more. They also influence how you grow
up, and how you treat others. They teach you discipline,
respect, and honor.”
“I learned all that in school.”
“I’m sure you did. But it’s different coming from a
father. Fathers will help you shape your life, shape who
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 311
The boy was silent, off in thought for a few moments,
then said, “I wish I had a father.”
“I know how you feel,” Coop said. Coop looked up and
saw Kathryn coming back from the phone, kicking up small
tufts of sand as she walked--skipped, actually. She was
smiling. “What are you so happy about?” Coop said.
“It’s all set. We should be there in an hour.”
She handed him her chicken scratch directions and said,
“I don’t have a clue. Maybe you can figure it out.”
* * *
She was right. It took just over an hour to get to the
drop off. A light blue van waited at the intersection in
the middle of the desert. There were no cars, no buildings,
no phones. Just a van. And now a motorcycle.
Coop stopped the bike 100 yards from the van and left
the engine idling. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he
said over his shoulder.
She nodded. “These people helped me get this far. I
can’t turn back now. It’s the only safe thing to do.”
“Can’t you go with them?” Coop said.
“Not yet,” she said, as Coop turned off the bike,
leaving the headlight shining in the falling evening. Coop
lifted Zachary down, and felt Kathryn get off.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 312
“I have to lead them away from Zack. They’ll follow
us,” she said, “thinking we still have him. And I’ll catch
up with Zack in a few days.” She grabbed her son’s small
hand. “It’s time to go, Zack,” she said. “Say goodbye to
“Goodbye, sir,” he said, shaking his hand free from his
mom’s grip and offering it to Coop.
“Goodbye, Zachary,” he said taking the hand. The boy’s
firm handshake showed promise.
“I wish I had a father just like you,” Zachary said.
He had no idea what to say, but the boy waited for a
response. Finally, Coop said, “And I wish I had a son just
like you.” Coop leaned over and hugged him.
Coop watched as his Chief’s fan and Harley man strode
the dirt road to the van. Kathryn knelt, gave the boy a
long hug, then stood. The sliding door of the van opened,
and the boy turned around. He looked at the van, then to
his mother, then to van, then jumped into his mother’s arms.
Kathryn held tight. Finally the mother let go, and the boy
climbed into the van and waved goodbye.
The door slid shut, the engine started, and the van
slipped past him on the left, leaving a small trail of dust
in the red glare of the taillights. Kathryn stood where she
left her son, watching the van turn onto the main road.
Coop swung his leg over the bike and walked to her.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 313
She watched through tears, as the van wound through the
desert roads, fading in the darkness. Coop wrapped his arms
around her, and Kathryn responded, holding tightly, crying
into his chest. He stroked her soft hair. “Everything is
going to be all right,” he said.
“I know,” she said between sniffles. “I just can’t
help it. I don’t know whether I’m sad or happy. I can’t
believe it’s really happened, and that I’ve gone five years
“You’ve got a lifetime ahead of you now.”
“I know, but if feel like I’ve missed so much,” she
“You have,” he said. “You missed dirty diapers and
three a.m. feedings. You missed the terrible two’s. You
missed signing him up years in advanced for some pretentious
She managed a sniffle-laugh. “Very funny,” she said,
looking up at him, still in his arms, this time not trying
to pull away. Her lips were inches from his.
In the light from the bike, he could see the splash of
black in her eyes, the delicate lines in her face, the
fullness of her lips. She felt right against him as if she
were an a vital appendage or external organ he had been
missing. They fit together like a puzzle. Every other
woman he had been with had been either too tall, too short,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 314
too bony. Kathryn was the right size, right shape, right
mind. But he remembered the promise Spot was so kind to
remind him of--a six beer promise. But six beer promises
Coop cradled her face in his hands. Her cheeks were
wet from the tears. He lifted her chin slightly, leaned and
met her lips. She responded delicately at first, then fell
into her passion. Gabrielle had never kissed him so fully
and so intensely. He hadn’t been kissed like that
in...Hell, he’d never been kissed like that. The motions
had been there before, but he’d never had the tingling down
the spine, the sensation shooting off in a hundred
directions, following some forgotten nerve pathways that led
to parts of him that had, until that moment, never been
A coyote howled nearby, and Kathryn stiffened, breaking
off the kiss. “What was that?”
Coop still leaning, his eyes still halfway closed,
said, “A coyote.” He pulled her back into his arms. “Now,
where were we?”
She spoke in a playfully romantic voice. “I think we
were about to--,” The coyote howled again, and Kathryn
broke free. “It sounds so close.”
“Oh they’re far away,” Coop tried. “Far far away. The
sound carries out here in the desert. Didn’t you know
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 315
“No. I didn’t,” she said just as the coyote howled
again. This time another joined him in his serenade to the
moon. “There’s two of them,” she shrieked, frightened as if
she had just seen a couple of Cujos circling. “Can we go?”
she asked. “I’m getting a little scared.”
“They’re just scavengers. Like buzzards with four
legs. They’re not going to bother you.”
“I don’t care,” she said flatly. “They’re scaring me.
They sound like they’re everywhere.”
He took her by the hand and led her through the
imaginary packs of wild dogs to the bike. “C’mon,” he said.
“It’s been a long day. We’ve got another hour to go before
we stop for the night.”
“Are there going to be coyotes?”
“I hope not,” he said and started the bike. He didn’t
want any interruptions.
* * *
Coop found a coyote free campsite just where the man at
the gas station ten miles back told him he would.
“Are there coyotes at this place?” Coop had asked when
had gone inside to pay for the gas.
“There’s thousands of them,” the man had said.
“They’re everywhere. Hell, you can’t walk ten feet without
seeing coyote around here.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 316
“But she,” Coop began to explain, pointing over his
shoulder to Kathryn outside at the bike, “she gets a little
“Hell, they ain’t gonna bother nobody. They eat the
dead stuff. Like roadkill. Cats, dogs, stuff like that,”
he said and looked past Coop as if something caught his eye.
The bell over the door clanged and the man continued, “I’m
telling you, mister, there ain’t no coyotes ‘round here. I
don’t care what you think you heard. They ain’t no coyotes!
Been living here for seventy two years and never seen no
coyotes. They been dead for over a hundred years. See that
picture over there on the wall? That’s my grandfather.
Those is coyotes he killed. The last five left in these
“Then what’s all that howling?” Kathryn said.
“Howling?” the man asked as a coyote just outside the
back door wailed. “What howling?” The man thought for a
minute, then said, “You must mean the when the wind blows
though the mesquite trees. It makes an awful howling sound,
like the coyotes used to make.”
“Mesquite trees?” Kathryn asked.
“You know. Like what they cook food over,” the man
said. “Everybody cooks with Mesquite ‘round here. Have you
ever had a thick steak cook slowly over a Mesquite fire?”
“Once, I think,” Kathryn said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 317
“It’s the only way to cook,” he said.
“So there’s no coyotes?” she asked.
“None,” he said.
“At all?” she asked.
“Coyote gone,” the man said. “Bye bye.” He reached
behind the counter into the long cooler and took out three
Cokes. “Soda pop?” the man offered. They all took one, and
the man said, “So you kids on your honeymoon?”
“We’re not married,” Kathryn said.
“Not married? Living in sin, then?” he said sipping
“No,” Coop said.
“Boyfriend-girlfriend?” the man asked.
“Nope,” Kathryn said.
“That’s odd,” the old guy said. “You two look like
Coop didn’t quite know how to respond. Kathryn wasn’t
saying anything either.
“Not like this other couple in here earlier,” he
continued. “Ohhh, she was yelling at him something fierce,
and he came in mumbling something foreign.”
“Foreign?” Coop asked. “What do you mean?”
“You know, like from another country.”
“I know that. I mean what did it sound like. Were
they Japanese, Chinese, Russian?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 318
“He wasn’t a jap, or chinaman. He looked...you know
foreign. Like from Europe.”
“What about her?”
“I don’t know. She did most of her yelling from the
van. I didn’t see her much.” The man shifted his stance
and raised an eyebrow. “Why all the interest in these
“You brought them up,” Coop retorted.
“Sure I did. But you’s the one asking all the
questions. Now what’s going on?”
Coop looked him straight in the eye and said, “You
fought in the big war didn’t you?”
“You’re a patriot. Right?”
“Damn right,” he said.
“I guess I can trust you then.” Coop looked around the
room to see if any unauthorized personnel were listening in.
“They’re communists, sir,” he said in a very serious tone.
“And we’ve been sent by the federal government to track
them down. Do you know where they were headed.”
“No. They didn’t say.”
“What’d they buy?” Coop said.
“Let’s see,” he said, looking around the store. “Gas.
A couple of soda pops. A bag of Cheetos--baked, not fried.
And a throw away camera.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 319
“And you never saw the girl?”
“No. She stayed in the van. Didn’t even get out to
pee,” he said, then looked to Kathryn. “Sorry, mam.”
“Thank you, sir,” Coop said. “Again, you’ve done your
Now in the coyote-free camp site, Coop lay next to
Kathryn, propped up on an elbow. A zillion stars looked
down upon them, reminding Coop of the bioluminescence in the
night waters of the gulf. The wind through the mesquite
eventually stopped, and there was only the silence of the
sage rustling. The air was more relaxed. Passion had given
way to reflection.
“Did that sound like your guy?”
“Dmitri?” he said. “It’s him.”
“But I thought you--”
“He must’ve been wearing a vest,” Coop said.
“Was that guy talking about his wife?”
“Chang,” he said. “Turns out, I’ve been set up. She’s
been watching me for about six months. They’ve known
exactly where I’ve been and exactly where I’m going. Only
Chang and Spot knew that.”
“Do you think they know where we are now?”
“No. They couldn’t find us here,” he said. “We took
so many back roads to get here and I made sure no one was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 320
“What about the cops?”
“Why would the cops be after us?”
“You killed the Major.”
“I didn’t kill him,” Coop said. “I just cut off his
air until he passed out. When I felt him go limp, I fired
the gun into the wall just to scare the kids.”
Kathryn lay on her back far enough away, but not too
far. Coop felt her stray foot against his. Hotels had
become a luxurious risk they couldn’t afford to take. A
thick ground-cloth and a blanket of stars were all they had,
and she didn’t seem to mind. She hadn’t complained once,
and he liked that.
“So the Major’s alive?”
“He’s fine,” Coop said and moved a little closer to
her. “Are you going to tell me why they had your son?”
She rolled up to an elbow to face him. “You have to
trust me. I can’t tell you now,” she said, looking through
him. “Maybe in a year or two. But not now.”
This was not the way he usually worked. But something
inside told him she needed his kind of help on her terms.
So far, they’d only withdrawn her boy from school. And
since the Major was the aggressor, Coop was justified in
pulling the weapon. There was one question that lingered in
Coop’s mind, but she wouldn’t tell him how the boy came to
be at the school. Over all the years, during the many
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missions, he had learned that trust is an honor bestowed
upon someone. Most times trust is earned, but sometimes,
like a battlefield commission, trust is thrust upon person.
Coop knew who to trust and how to trust. He trusted
Kathryn and he trusted Kathryn’s reasons for not telling him
everything. His instincts told him he was right. And his
instincts had kept him alive for thirty five years. Now,
however, his instincts were screaming at him about Dmitri.
“So,” Kathryn said, scooting closer to him. “You know
“Dr. Susan Chang,” he said. It still didn’t seem to
make sense. But it had to be her.
“Are you positive?” she asked.
“It all adds up.” he said. “Spot’s the only one who
knew where I was heading. And Chang was always asking for
updates about my trip. Hell, she even got me to send her a
“Were you two..?”
Coop laughed and said, “I’m not as easy as I look, you
“You’re not?” she said, inching even closer. “That’s a
shame.” She reached up for his face, sliding her hand
against his chin. “I like the way you chin smiles. It
always makes you look happy.”
“I’ve had reason to be lately,” he said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 322
“Lately?” she said, her finger running the outline of
his face. “How so?”
“I’m enjoying the trip,” he said in soft voice. “You
know, the scenery, the attractions.” He found her hip and
pulled her closer.
“Me too,” she said. “Especially the attractions,” she
said and leaned to meet his lips.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 323
Beckett sat in the wing chair looking at his watch. He
had been sitting there for three hours listening to the
Senator ramble on about the hearings. Beckett had never
seen him this nervous before. The hearings started tomorrow
at nine, and McAlpin, had to listen to accusations levied
against him by General Wright and Senator Varela on issues
concerning Operation Prodigy.
“What the hell did you find out on that punk Senator?”
“Nothing, sir. Guy’s a fucking Boy Scout.”
“For Christ sake, Beckett, the man’s got to have some
kind of dirt,” the Senator said. “Couldn’t you find
somebody who’s seen him do drugs or something?”
Beckett looked the rug and shook his head. He noticed
a small hole in the rug where the Senator had tried to fix
an errant thread. “No sir. Nothing.”
“What about that damn talk show host. I’ll bet he’s
got something up his sleeve. I know it,” the Senator said.
“What could he have?” Beckett said. “We’ve got the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 324
files she stole from the clinic. The girl’s not going to
make it--not with Mallory on the job. And aside from
someone from the project strolling down the aisle, claiming
they were part of it, we’re safe. They can’t implicate you
on hearsay,” Beckett said standing, trying to get the blood
flowing to his bottom. “They don’t have a chance in hell,”
“General Wright knows a lot more than he’s letting on,
son,” McAlpin said, his hands in prayer, his chins resting
on his thumbs. “I can feel it. And I think that fine
gentleman from Florida knows it. That’s why he’s pushing
for a full senate hearing.”
“It’s not going to happen, Senator. This thing will be
over and done with in a week, and everything will be back to
“It better be, Beckett. Because if I go down, you know
whose coming along for the ride.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 325
The morning sun peeked at the horizon as if trying to
decide to rise or sleep in. The dim light was enough to
wake up Cooper, and as his eyes slowly opened, he could see
the last few stars to the west. The Pleiades were nowhere
in sight. Kathryn lay against him, her knee resting on his
hip, her head cradled in his arm. The sleeping bag he had
put over her had been tossed aside in her restless sleep.
As he slipped away from her, he pulled the bag back onto her
He fished around the daypack for a clean underwear and
fresh jeans, and opened the bottle of water. After dabbing
deodorant, brushing his teeth, and washing his face, he
slipped on a clean shirt. It smelled clean anyway.
He dried his face, lowered the towel from his eyes and
turned around to where he had been sleeping. Twenty feet
past the ground cloth, twenty feet from where Kathryn lay
curled up under the sleeping bag, was the edge of the earth.
The sun rose above the rim, calling the long, deep
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 326
shadows home from the west side of the canyon. In the
darkness, he had no idea how close they were to the rim of
the Canyon. The man at the store said they would be close,
but Coop had no idea he had meant this close. Coop walked
over to the edge and looked down.
“I never realized how breathtaking this was,” Kathryn
said. Coop hadn’t heard her approach. She was wearing one
of his shirts. She wrapped her arms around him as he turned
to her. “Makes you wish you had a bigger vocabulary just so
you could describe it.”
He leaned in for a good morning kiss. “How are you
feeling?” he asked.
“Contented,” she said smiling. “How about you?”
He laughed and said, “I wish I had a bigger vocabulary
to describe it.” He went to the bike and took a Diet Coke
from the bag of supplies he had bought the night before from
the old man, and offered it to her. “I know it’s not
coffee, but it might do for awhile.”
“It’ll do fine,” she said.
“There’s also some bottled water if you want to wash
up.” He unfastened the golf club, and dug a bag of balls
from his day pack. He took a few practice swings with the
Calloway Titanium Big Bertha driver.
“Is that why you so desperately had to come to the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 327
“Every man’s got to have a dream,” he said and pushed a
tee into the dirt. “The Mayan warriors used to take a
crooked stick and climb to the top of their pyramids and hit
rocks to drive away the evil spirits.”
“Is that what you’re trying to do?”
Coop shrugged. “Maybe.”
“I’m not one of your spirits, am I?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he said and placed a ball on the tee,
thought for a second, then tossed the ball to her. “Here.
That one’s you. If you make the transition to the evil
spirt level, I’ll ask for it back.” Coop set another
Titleist on the tee.
“Which one is that?” she asked.
“We’ll call him Dmitri,” he said. “And we’re going to
knock the shit out of him.” Coop brought the club back,
keeping his left arm straight, then made contact with the
ball, launching Dmitri into the air a thousand yards. Coop
watched as long as he could keep his eye on it. It rose for
about twelve seconds, then started it’s descent into the
canyon below, falling another twenty seconds before it
drifted out of sight. He set up another. “You want to try
one?” he asked. “It’s very therapeutic.”
“No thanks. All my problems have been solved.”
The first of the sight-seeing helicopters approached as
he angled the next one to the right, falling short behind a
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 328
boulder the size of a car.
“The helicopter distracted you,” Kathryn said. “Try it
When the chopper passed, Coop set Gabrielle on the tee
and sent her into the stratosphere, giving it a record hang
time of 45 seconds before she flew out of sight.
“Get the binoculars,” Kathryn shouted. “I think it
landed on the other side.”
Coop hit almost a dozen more before stopping. He felt
he was holding her from her son, so he left the last three
balls for another time. He noticed she was already dressed
and had their little campsite packed. “I’ll get the bike
ready and we’ll get out of here,” he said. “We’ve got
another long day ahead.”
“Hit the rest of your balls,” she said. “This is what
you came here for.”
“Positive,” she replied.
Coop wasted no time setting up another ball. A
helicopter was touring the middle of the canyon. “Watch
this,” he said and swung, driving the ball across the canyon
toward the helicopter. They watched as ball fell out of
range. “Think I hit them?”
“You nailed it, Coop. I’m surprised they’re not
bailing out.” She said it as if she were pretending to be
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 329
his biggest fan. Coop didn’t mind her tone.
He placed another ball on the tee. “Except for yours,
this is the last one.”
“Last evil spirit or last ball?” she asked.
“Last ball,” he said. “Far too many spirits for one
“Better make it a good one,” Kathryn said. “Send it
Coop reared back, swung and hit the ball harder than
any of the others. No doubt about it; this one was going to
the other side. It was the best he had ever hit a ball. It
felt so right, as if it could sail into Mexico. But just as
he found it and focused on the white ball, it dropped. It
just dropped straight down as if something was pulling it to
the floor below, or as if a strong wind came from above was
pushing it down, defying all laws of physics.
Then a muffled sound came from the edge of the canyon,
and before it register with Coop, a helicopter lifted above
the rim. A man with long blonde hair stepped out onto the
rail and began spraying the ground with automatic weapon
Coop dove onto Kathryn, knocking her to the ground. He
dragged her to the other side of the bike, letting go of her
hand long enough to snatch his daypack. He grabbed her and
darted behind a boulder and began firing. But Kathryn lost
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 330
her grip and fell by the bike.
Coop first went for the shooter to shake him up, and
when the guy ducked inside the chopper, he took aim at the
pilot and squeezed off five rounds. Kathryn still lay prone
by the bike, eyes closed, hands over her ears.
“Jesus, Kathryn,” Coop yelled, as he changed clips.
“Not behind the bike!”
“I’m not moving,” she yelled back.
“Get the hell away from the bike!” he said and darted
out, snatched her and drug her to the safety of the rock,
and continued firing. “Never take cover behind a Harley,”
he said. “Never.”
He had only brought four clips and was on his second
one when he caught the shooter in the arm. The blonde
ducked into chopper again, and Coop fired off four quick
rounds into the glass in front of the pilot. One of them
must have struck because the helicopter began to auto
rotate. Coop instinctively pulled Kathryn from the ground
and almost threw her on the bike. The Harley started
without problem, and they escaped just as the helicopter
spun to the ground. A few seconds later, the explosion
almost knocked them off the bike.
* * *
“Fucking geedunk Bell helicopters,” Mallory said,
pushing himself off the ground, the wreckage in flames
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 331
behind him. He found his weapon just at the edge of the
wreckage. The pilot lay in a heap ten yards away. “Hey,
you alive?” Mallory called. “Hey, Steve fucking Canyon,” he
said walking over, feeling his own flesh wound. It was at
the base of the deltoid and would heal in a few days.
Fortunately, it was his left arm, so drinking a beer
wouldn’t be hampered. He had been shot before, and this one
was no big deal. “I’m talking to you,” he said to the lump
of pilot. He nudged him with his foot but there was no
response. “Fucking geedunk local pilot,” he said. “Serves
you right. You can’t even take a hit, you fucking geedunk
mother fucker.” He rolled him over, and just to the left of
center of the pilot’s forehead was a hole. “Nice shot,”
Mallory said. “I like this guy, whoever the hell he is.”
He policed the site the best he could for any evidence
linking him to the wreckage and got his bearings. He was
ten miles east from the geedunk’s helo pad, and it was a
nice morning for a run, so he shouldered his weapon and
lighted out for the cool air conditioned comfort of his
As he ran, he went over everything that had just
happened. The girl’s face he knew. But the guy’s he wasn’t
sure. It was as if he had seen him before but couldn’t
remember where. He was out of context. And he was too far
away to I.D.. Something about him was familiar, he just
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 332
couldn’t put his finger on it. He searched his memory,
closing his eyes from time to time to concentrate. Closing
his eyes until he tripped and fell to the ground.
“Geedunk fucking rock,” he said the melon size boulder
as he picked himself up.
* * *
Coop cruised through the strip mall parking lot,
checking the front and back before going into the Mailboxes
Etc. It was still early, and he doubted his package had
arrived. But he checked anyway.
“Not here,” the teenage clerk said.
“What about Fed Ex? They delivered anything yet?”
“Yeah. Everything’s here.”
“Shit,” Coop said, pounding the counter. “I told him
to send it Fed Ex. Not UPS.”
“What a dipshit,” the clerk said. “UPS doesn’t get
here until two. Sometimes later. Nobody sends anything
overnight UPS unless they want it in a week.”
“I’ll come back for it,” Coop said.
“You do that,” the clerk said.
Kathryn was still sitting on the bike when he returned.
“Think it’s safe to eat?” she asked.
Coop looked around the parking lot, pretending not to
see the diner directly in front of him with the big neon
sign advertising breakfast 24 hours a day. He was starving
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 333
but there was no time for food. No time for waitresses. No
time for crowds. “I don’t see one,” he said. “Better move
on.” And he got back on the bike.
“What about that place right over there,” she said.
“There,” she said, pointing frantically.
The persuasive smell of bacon wafted toward him on the
light breeze. Maybe he shouldn’t be so hasty. After all,
he did have to wait for the package. And he bet if they sat
in the back, by an exit door, they’d be safe. And his
stomach was growling to be fed.
They placed their orders with the big-haired waitress,
and over coffee he said, “I think I know that guy back
“Who is he?” she said, stirring in two sugars.
“I don’t know. I could have sworn I’ve seen him
somewhere before. But he was so far away, I just couldn’t
“Concentrate. You’ll figure it out.” She clinked her
spoon against her mug. “Do you think he made it?”
“Doubt it,” he said. “He may have survived the
landing, but he couldn’t have survived the explosion.”
“Do you think they’ll send out someone else?” she
In a low, apologetic tone, he said, “Yeah. I’m sure
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 334
“Is it ever going to stop?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Not until one of you are
“What do you mean?”
“It probably won’t stop until either you, or whoever is
sending these guys after you, is dead.”
She stirred her coffee again. It must help her relax
because she stirred it for five minutes. Stirring and
clinking. Stirring and clinking. “So those are my
options?” she asked.
“So far.” Coop said and sipped his coffee.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 335
The Senator from Wyoming called the hearing to order as
Beckett took his seat behind the Senator McAlpin. The room
was packed with reporters, all there to meek out what little
story there would be, hoping to take the tiny sound bites
and turn them into tomorrow’s headlines. Varela, the
squinty eyed Senator from Florida, was four seats to the
“I would like to thank you all for coming this morning.
It is now ten o’clock and time to begin the hearings,”
Senator Cranely said. “In question today are General
Wright’s and Senator Varela’s allegations of recruitment
practices by the Intelligence Community, along with numerous
infringements upon the constitution as well as their
respective charters. It will be our task, gentleman, to
decide if any investigation into recruitment practices is
necessary and if so, to execute those investigations.”
“Excuse me, Senator,” McAlpin said.
“The floor recognizes the fine gentleman from North
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 336
Carolina,” Cranely said.
“What proof do we have that this fine gentleman from
Arizona is being forthright with this body of legislators?
If, after all, he presents only hearsay and fabrication,
what measures do we have to challenge him?”
Cranely at the podium said, “You bring up an important
point, sir.” He addressed the committee. “Gentleman, this
is not a trial. It is our responsibility to decide if there
is enough evidence to determine to proceed further into
these allegations. If, after hearing all the testimony, we
decide more inquiry is warranted, we will proceed. Heaven
help any man who come here today bearing false witness.”
Cranely summoned the first witness.
General Wright took his seat at the long table before
the committee. He was a burly man and looked younger than
his voice made him sound. His knuckles were wide, his
“General Wright,” Varela began after being recognized
by Cranely. “You were in the military. Correct?”
“Yes sir. I served in the Special Forces during Viet
Nam, Grenada, the Gulf War, and just about every little
skirmish in between.”
“You’ve been decorated numerous times. Correct?”
“Purple Heart. Silver Star.”
“And the Congressional Medal of Honor. Correct?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 337
Beckett squirmed in his seat. Varela was making out
Wright to be some kind of hero.
“Yes sir,” the General said.
“Now, during your career you had an opportunity to work
with several branches of the intelligence communities.
“Yes sir. I’ve worked with the CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI,
OSI, NSI, and on some occasions with The Roamers.”
“And please tell us just what is a Roamer.”
“A Roamer is an operative who is well versed in all
aspects of all the intelligence branches. They are not a
part of any organized agency, but in effect are part of all
“How does one become a Roamer,” the Senator asked.
“They are selected at birth. Usually taken from from
single mothers, preferably college graduates with higher
than normal IQs.”
“How do they acquire the babies? Adopt them?”
“No sir. They are taken from the mothers at birth.
The mothers are told that the baby was stillborn.”
“Do you have any names of these children? Or their
“No sir. Not at this time,” Wright said.
Beckett leaned into McAlpin’s ear. “Goddamn right he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 338
“Then why are we all here today?” McAlpin said to the
body. “This hearing is a complete waste of tax payers hard
earned money. Jesus Christ, for what it cost us to meet
here today, we could have built a home for a welfare mother,
paid for her to move in, and bought her a year’s worth of
“Senator McAlpin,” Cranely said removing his glasses
and rubbing his tired eyes. “Please try to contain
yourself. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
you need to respect the fortitude of General Wright in
wanting to pursue this matter.”
“I just think that it’s ludicrous that a retired
General can walk in here, demand a committee meeting and
have diarrhea of the mouth, spewing nothing but lies and
hate, just as he does on his radio show.” He looked to the
General and said, “What’s wrong with polluting the minds of
everyday America, General? Is that not enough? You now
have to pollute my mind and the minds of my esteemed
colleagues? Tell me, General, when will we get to hear
about the black helicopters, the UFOs, or Operation Garden
“What I say is the truth,” the General responded. “And
you should know, sir.”
“What do you mean I should know?” McAlpin said.
Beckett leaned into McAlpin’s ear again and suggested
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 339
that he calm down.
“You should know sir, because you have been the head of
this project since its inception. Operation Prodigy, you
“That’s nonsense,” the Senator blurted. “What proof do
“Sir, I have overwhelming proof. Sir, I have proof
that you personally own several clinics across America,
mostly located in rural towns, that engage in the practice
of kidnaping infants. I will also show proof, sir, that the
number of stillborn babies to single mothers is twelve times
higher in your clinics than the national average. I also
have an eyewitness that can identify the staff at one of
your clinics taking parting in a baby snatching operation.
And if that’s not enough, sir, I’ll soon have a list of
every child that entered the program, along with the name of
his biological mother, and her last known address.” The
General cleared his throat in the silence of the room and
added, “I’ve got you by the gonadal clef, sir. And you’re
going to be squirming to get away.”
Beckett thought the room would erupt, but no one said a
word. No gasping, no groaning. Nothing. Just silence.
“He’s bluffing, sir,” he whispered. “We’ve intercepted all
of that.” He poured his boss a tall glass of water from the
stainless pitcher, and took his seat behind the Senator just
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 340
as Varela spoke.
“You say you have an eyewitness,” Varela said.
“Yes sir. A physician from their clinic in Tennessee.”
“May we talk to him,” Varela said and called Dr.
Langston to the table.
The young black physician stood in the rear of the room
and walked down to the table and took his seat next to
Wright. He stated his name for the record.
“Dr. Langston,” Varela began. “You have personal
account of the alleged kidnaping from the clinic where you
“Used to work, sir,” the doctor said.
Beckett leaned and whispered, “‘Cause I had his black
ass fired, sir.”
“That’s my boy,” the Senator whispered back.
“You were fired. Correct?” the Florida Senator said.
“Yes. I was fired after I broke up a fight between a
patient and the head nurse, Nurse Mothersole.”
“Tell the committee of highly regarded body of
legislative members just what happened.”
“A young woman was trying to leave when Mothersole went
berserk. She tackled the woman and started beating her. I
had to pull her off.”
McAlpin spoke. “But wasn’t the, quote, patient
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 341
actually stealing narcotics from the clinic? Isn’t that why
Nurse Mothersole tried to stop her?”
“I don’t know that she was stealing narcotics. We
never called the police. We never filed with the DEA. We
never followed any of the required procedures.”
“Why not?” Varela asked.
“We were told not to,” he said. “Nurse Mothersole said
she would handle everything.”
“So then you were terminated. Correct?”
“Correct,” Langston said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 342
Coop kept a periodic eye on the TV on the far wall
while he inhaled his breakfast. The coffee was strong, the
bacon crisp, and the eggs just wet enough. Some kind of
hearings were being shown on CSPAN, and Coop thought he
recognized one of the Senators, but didn’t give it much
thought. It seemed to be his day for faint remembrances.
“I’ve got to mail all those tapes I’ve been making,” he
said. “They’re starting to pile up.”
“How is the book coming along?” she said.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve got some thoughts
recorded.” He took in shovelful of eggs.”
“It’s a good thing you weren’t hungry,” she said,
pushing her plate toward him.
“You going to eat that?” he said, setting his sights on
her biscuits. As he was about to take one, a blonde figure
caught his eye. He was at the front door looking around the
dining room as if he was searching for a table. “Don’t turn
around,” Coop said without moving his lips. The man was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 343
dressed all in black and looked like he had just run a
marathon. His head was soaked with sweat, his face was
dirty, and blood soaked through his shirt at his shoulder.
His clothes were covered in dust.
“When I say to, crawl under the table.” Coop waited
for the man to look the other way. “Now,” he whispered, and
she did as she was told just as the man looked over. Coop
stacked her plate on his, dumped her coffee in his, setting
her cup on the seat next to him. He straightened the table
making it look like only he sat there.
The man began to walk toward Coop, and Coop slipped the
Browning from behind his waist. He lay it in his lap under
a napkin, finger guarding the trigger. The exit door and
the men’s room were behind him. If he had to shoot, it
would be an easy escape. But he was tired, he wanted to
stay around for one more cup of coffee and maybe another
order of bacon. He just didn’t feel like leaving yet.
As the man approached, Coop tried to recall where he
had seen him. He had a face that millions of people have.
Nothing distinguishing, no strong features except for his
long hair. He was in good shape, and though not as tall as
Coop, he was a bit broader. The man’s boot heels knocked
against the hardwood floor, growing louder and louder as he
neared, still scanning the room, paying particular attention
to the couples having breakfast.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 344
Coop waited for him to make the first move. Chances
were good that he may not even be recognized. Still, Coop
braced himself, ready to fire if forced to. The man kept
walking. He was three tables away. Now two. When he got
to Coop’s, Coop was eating with his left hand, right hand in
Suddenly, the man slid into Coop’s booth, smelling like
a mix between the desert and B.O., and keeping his hands
palm down on the table in plain sight as if posing no
threat. “You know, I just ran ten miles through the
desert,” he said. “You know why? Some geedunk
sharpshooter felt it necessary to shoot my chopper out of
the sky. Any idea why someone would want to do that?” When
Coop didn’t respond, the man continued. “I kind of got an
idea, but I’m not sure how it all fits together. Maybe you
can help me out, Coop.”
Geedunk was a word he hadn’t heard since Liberia. A
sniper Coop had partnered with on a mission had used that
word every chance he had. It was always geedunk this.
Geedunk that. But it couldn’t be the same guy. And even if
it was, happy reunions aside, he was still trying to kill
them. Coop held the weapon steady. “How do you know me?”
“Africa. You carried my ass out of a tower and across
ten miles of the shittiest country I had ever been shot in.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 345
Coop remembered the scene. He had been assigned to
break in a FNG on a live mission. It was his first FNG, and
the FNG’s first live mission. The guy ended up taking a
round in the neck, and Coop had to carry him down the stairs
of a clock tower, and out of the city, to the evac site ten
miles away. Liberia was nine years ago, and he hadn’t seen,
nor heard from the FNG since. The guy was wounded so badly,
Coop just figured the guy died. He tried to recall his
“Mallory,” Mallory said as if he knew what Coop was
thinking. “And your Cooper Sumner.”
“That’s right,” Coop said unemotionally. Mallory was a
trained murder. There was no trusting him. His loyalty was
a strong as his paycheck.
“What are you? Like her personal bodyguard?” he said
nodding to Kathryn. Her head popped up next to Coop, her
eyes level with the table. “If that’s the case, mam,”
Mallory said, “then you’ve got the best.”
“Why the demotion?” Coop said ignoring Kathryn.
“What’s she done?”
“Not sure. But she angered some pretty high people. I
was sent after her when a couple of jerk-offs couldn’t pull
their dicks out to pee. Somebody shot the hell out of them.
And I’m guessing it was you.”
“Who sent them?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 346
Mallory smiled apologetically and said, “You know I
can’t tell you that, Coop. I still have my integrity.”
“Is it necessary that she be demoted?”
“I don’t think it’s a national interest thing if that’s
what you’re asking. I think it’s more personal. She stole
something from a prominent member of our Community and he
feels she should pay.”
“What’d she steal?”
“Don’t know. It could be nudy pictures of the guy who
sent me for all I know. I’m just doing what I’m told.”
“You know I can’t let you do it,” Coop said. “I’ve got
you sighted, so if you even start to blink, sixteen rounds
will find you so fast you won’t have time to finish that
“Look, man,” Mallory said, not moving his mouth.
“You’ve got me wrong. We can work something out.”
“What are you talking about?” Coop said.
“I’ll tell her she left the country or something. I’ll
say I couldn’t find her.”
“I wouldn’t be here without you, man. You saved my
life. I owe a hell of a lot more to you than them.”
Coop knew sincerity was difficult to spot in people
like himself and Mallory. They’ve all been trained to lie
so effectively you never can tell until it’s too late.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 347
Though he hardly ever used it, the ability to deceive was
something that came easy to Coop and, most likely for
Mallory. “I don’t know that I can trust you, Mallory. But
right now, I’m not in the mood to kill anyone today. Of
course that could all change very suddenly.”
“You’re not kidding,” Mallory said. “I remember a time
when you were the man. You had the reputation of a fucking
killing machine. Reckless Disregard for Human Life was your
mantra, man. I think they must’ve sewed that in your
underwear as a kid. You were the meanest, quickest, most
durable geedunk mother fucker in the Community.”
“That was a long time ago, Mallory.” He wished Kathryn
hadn’t heard any of it. It doesn’t make for the best of
“You see, you and I are just alike. Born of the same
loins. Raised in the same cave. We both know what it’s
like to watch a friend die in your arms. Hold it,” he said.
“On second thought, you may not. No one ever died when you
were on a mission. Did they? No, man, you were blessed. I
lost five on one geedunk job. Five geedunk mother fuckers.
One job. That’s probably the only difference between you
and me. You’re blessed, and, oh yeah, I’m still getting
paid. You’re just a volunteer assassin, helping this lovely
lady, this fair damsel in distress. That’s the only
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 348
Mallory was right. There wasn’t a hell of a big
difference between the two. Mallory was a killer. And Coop
could admit he was too. But the machine had been dormant a
long time--a long time until this trip. Then the sound of
the first burst of the Uzi back at the diner jump started
the machine, and everything fell into place. Heart like a
piston pumping, senses keen, brain on a new level of thought
process, muscles tighter, reflexes faster. But this time,
there was something there that had never been: emotion. And
it was a welcomed sign.
Coop pulled the gun from his lap and lay it on the
table as a visible threat to Mallory.
Mallory saw the weapon. “Man, don’t point that thing
But Coop left the gun trained on Mallory. “So what are
you proposing, Mallory? Why shouldn’t I maximally demote
“Why should you? You go your way. I go mine. I tell
my employer I finished the job. Life is good.”
“What about this little thing called integrity you
“Integrity is something you have when no one is
pointing a gun at you,” he said.
“Maybe he’s telling the truth,” Kathryn said.
“I don’t think so,” Coop replied.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 349
“What if he is? You can’t kill him.”
Coop didn’t need anyone telling him not to kill the
guy. His mind was made up. Mallory couldn’t be trusted.
But Kathryn kept on. “What if he can help us? What if he
can help me get out of the country?” She was so naive.
In the half second that Coop turned to tell Kathryn to
shut up, he took his eye off Mallory. And in that half
second, Mallory swung across the table, connecting with
Coop’s jaw. The impact knocked his head back and to the
side. Mallory snatched the gun, twisting the weapon from
“Whatever I say now is the truth,” Mallory said,
alternately pointing the gun at them. “And because no one
has a gun to my head, there’s no reason to question my
integrity.” He kept the gun aimed at Kathryn.
Coop and Mallory locked stares, and Coop felt helpless.
His options were to toss the table toward Mallory,
overpower him, and take the gun. Toss the table, grab
Kathryn and run out the back. He didn’t think Mallory would
cap Kathryn in the diner, but you couldn’t predict what a
guy like Mallory would do. Tossing the table was going to
have to work.
Coop placed his hands on the table’s edge, ready to
heave, when Mallory did something Coop didn’t expect.
Mallory, the emotionless killer, suddenly flipped the weapon
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 350
so that he was holding it by the barrel, offering it to
“You see, Coop,” he said. “I may be a killer, but I’m
also loyal. Nine years ago you saved my life and now I am
returning the favor. I consider us even. My debt’s paid.”
Coop secured the weapon, appraising Mallory and his
dust covered clothes, looking for any other guns.
“Here,” Mallory said, reaching behind him. “Take this
one too.” He offered Coop his Glock 17.
Coop took the second gun and said, “I don’t know
whether to buy you a beer, or shoot you dead.”
“I’d prefer the beer,” Mallory said.
“And the girl goes?” Coop asked.
“Free as a bird,” he said. “I’ll say I did it, but
she’s got to promise to leave the country and never set foot
on U.S. soil again.”
“I promise,” she blurted.
“These people are serious,” Mallory said. “I’ll give
you a couple of days to get things wrapped up before I head
back,” Mallory said. “Now, how about that beer. I know
it’s early, but I just ran ten miles through a geedunk
fucking desert and I’m thirsty as hell.”
There was 24 hour pool hall a few doors down from the
shipping store, though it called itself as billiards parlor
trying to capture the new breed of upscale pool players. A
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fresh faced twenty something girl behind the bar looked as
if she had just come on duty. She still smelled of strong
perfume, and her clothes were still pressed. “You guys look
thirsty?” she said.
Coop ordered a bourbon for Kathryn and a beer for them,
and Mallory said he would rack ‘em up.
“So I guess you two can relax now,” Mallory said, after
sinking the four ball. He rotated his bloody shoulder from
time to time, loosening it up.
“Yeah,” Coop said, thinking about Dmitri, not wanting
to give any details to Mallory. He didn’t have a need to
know. It wasn’t his fight.
“Some Russians are after Coop,” Kathryn said. “They’ve
already tried to kill him twice.” She meant well. “They
still might be around.”
“Russians? No shit?” he said, just missing the six
ball in the corner. He took a hit from his beer. “I
thought you retired.”
“I did,” Coop said, scanning the table for a shot.
“Geedunk fucking, grudge holding, ruskies,” he said.
“Man, I hate them. I once took out four from seven hundred
yards. I think I had the third round off before the first
one struck. Fuckin’ A, it was cool.”
Coop sunk the eleven ball. “That’s quite an
accomplishment,” he said, wishing Mallory would shut up.
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Kathryn didn’t need to hear that kind of talk. And Mallory
should know better.
“What are they on your ass for, anyway?”
“I put him away years ago and he’s escaped.”
“I hate those kind. They’re like weeds. You never
know where they’re going to pop up. You just got to clip
‘em when they do.” Mallory chalked his cue, as if he knew
Coop would miss the shot. “I can help, you know. I’ve got
a couple of days I can stick around.”
Coop made the shot. “No thanks. It’s not your fight.
You’ve done enough already.” He lined up the next shot.
“After this beer, we’re hitting the road. I’ve got to get
her out of here.”
“I’ve got to learn my Spanish,” she said.
“Kathryn,” Coop said, setting down the cue stick.
“When you’re forced to leave a country, that usually means
that people are after you. Right?”
“Right,” she said.
“Then don’t give them any clues about what language
your going to learn. It’ll make their life so much easier
if they can eliminate three quarters of the world.”
“That’s right, man. But in your case I don’t think
it’s going to matter, ‘cause I will have already killed
Coop stopped in mid shot. “Shut the hell up, Mallory,”
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Coop said. “Don’t say shit like that.”
“Sorry,” Mallory said. “That didn’t come out the way I
meant it. Sometimes I speak before I think.”
Coop finished his beer and checked his watch. It was
only eleven. He had three more hours before the damn
package arrived, but thought he would check anyway. It was
time for him and Kathryn to get on the road.
“Kathryn, we need to move on. We’ll take one last
check on the box, then get out of here.”
“You want me to wait while you go check?”
“No. Better come with,” Coop said.
“She can stay with me,” Mallory said.
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
If Mallory was going to kill her, he would have done it
by now, and the store was only three doors down. “Are you
sure?” he asked her.
“I’ll show her some of my trick shots,” Mallory said.
It was a quick run three doors down. “My package here
yet?” Coop asked the clerk. He knew Mallory would have to
have something set up long before Coop left in order to
whisk her away so fast. Those things take planning. He
turned and could still see the black Lincoln.
“Let me check,” the clerk said. He scanned the list on
his clipboard. “Hmmm. What time did I say UPS gets here?”
“One to two,” Coop said. Mallory wouldn’t kill her in
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the pool hall in plain sight of any witnesses.
“And what time is it now?” the kid asked.
Coop reached over the counter, grabbed the guy by his
shirt, and pulled him close. “I don’t have time for this.
Is it here or isn’t it?” He shoved him back, but not too
hard. He didn’t want to break the kid.
“It’s not here,” the clerk said, his voice a few
Coop bolted out the door, running hard for the pool
hall. He burst through the door, his eyes taking a few
moments to adjust to the darkness. He couldn’t focus. He
couldn’t see shit. Everything was black, except for the dim
light above the green tables.
“Was it there?” he heard Kathryn ask.
“No,” he said, trying not to show how relieved he was
that she was all right, and at the same time amazed how
stupid he had been. Over the trip, he had grown use to
having her around. And tomorrow he had to leaver her. He
would never see her again. He would only have her smell to
remember her by, the look in her eyes when she saw her son
for the first time, the lingering kisses as the coyotes
howled, and the way she wrapped herself around him on the
bike. It was all going to end tomorrow. “I think it’s time
we go,” Coop said. He offered his hand to Mallory, giving
back the Glock, then thanked him and wished him luck.
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“No problem, man. It’s the least I could do for a
legend,” Mallory said. He hugged Kathryn and whispered a
goodbye in her ear. “Good luck, Kathryn,” he said as he
broke from the hug, giving her some kind of conspiratorial
Outside on the bike, the Chief’s fan had her helmet on
and Coop was fastening his when she said, “Let’s try one
more time. Maybe it’s there.”
“I just checked,” he said.
“You never know,” she said.
He pulled the bike in front of the mail room. A
different clerk was behind the desk. “Yes sir. It’s right
here. It came in first thing this morning,” the clerk said.
Coop didn’t feel like arguing. He just signed for the box,
strapped it on the bike. He turned out of the parking lot,
leaving the Mallory in the pool hall, as he found the road
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Tomorrow she would be out of his life forever, and Coop
justified the attraction as just two people caught in a
traumatic situation. He kept telling himself they were only
two people brought together by a crisis, and his feelings
would pass in a couple of days. But he was having a hard
time buying into his theory. For whatever reason, he didn’t
want to leave her just yet. She was officially out of
danger. His job was done. It was time to celebrate. A
nice, long, slow celebration. The next town was seven miles
away, and he had seen a billboard for a steakhouse. They’d
have a nice long dinner and leave bright and early the next
morning, or maybe sometime around noon.
The Wagon Train steakhouse was dimly lit and decorated
with antique wagon wheels and had an “authentic” covered
wagon out front. They were seated at an outside table next
to little pond where geese paddled in line honking for
“Are you sure we should do this?” Kathryn said.
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“You’re in the clear. Why not? Tomorrow you’ll be
delivered safe and sound.”
“What about you? What are you going to do?”
He wanted to say he’d go with her and help her get set
up in her new country, but said, “I’ll move on. Maybe head
up to Washington state. I’ve never been up the Pacific
Coast Highway.” But alone on the road was not where he
wanted to be. He wanted to be with her. “Maybe I’ll just
head back to Florida.”
“What about,” she began, then leaned over and
whispered, “the Russians?”
He whispered back, “I’m sure I’ll run into them
“What are you going to do about them?”
“I don’t know,” he said. But he knew. He just didn’t
want to tell her. “I think I’ll let them buy us dinner to
start with,” he said taking Dmitri’s wallet out of his
jacket. “I hear the filet’s very good here.” He thumbed
through the bills. The waitress came. It was a cold Dos
Equis for Coop and a bourbon for Kathryn. “Any ideas where
you’re going to live?” Coop asked. “You’ve got the whole
world at your fingertips.”
When the waitress left, Kathryn said, “I haven’t given
it much thought.”
“Well if you do decide, don’t tell me. I don’t want to
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give in to any urge to find you.”
She looked at him, scrunching her face, and he realized
what he had just said. “You’d look for me?” she asked as if
that was the sweetest thing anyone could do.
This moment had to be handled delicately. Although he
wanted to give just a hint of how he felt, he didn’t want to
seem to too eager. “Hell, yeah!” he said.
Her face softened as she began to speak. “Coop,” she
said as tears gathered in her eyes. “I feel like tomorrow’s
my last day on this earth. I’m leaving everything I’ve ever
thought was important behind for a life with my son. I have
no idea where I’m going to live, what I’m going to do, or
what kind of mother I’m going to be.”
“You’re going to be a great mother,” he said.
“I’m not sure how.”
“Just do what your mother did. You turned out okay.”
“My mom left when I was seven.”
“Then do what your dad did,” Coop said. “He raised a
wonderful human being. Not to mention gorgeous,
“Seriously, Coop. This is all so new to me. Nothing
I’ve ever done is as important as raising my son...My
son...,” she said as if savoring the words. “It sounds so
different, but, in a way, so comfortable.”
“See,” he said. “You’re already off to a good start.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 359
Kathryn stirred her bourbon with the tiny straw and
drifted off into another world. Coop could only assume she
was thinking about life ahead. He knew the the thoughts
well. It wasn’t that long ago he gave up everything he had
ever known, cutting the umbilical cord that had kept him
alive for so many years. It was the hardest single thing
he’d done until now. Saying goodbye was something he didn’t
do well. Coop felt the gap between them widen. Last night
on the lip of the canyon, she was a different woman. A
woman who wanted him. A woman who laughed, or at least
smiled at his jokes. A woman that made him feel ten times
better than he ever had. But tonight she was putting the
distance between them, a distance as wide as the canyon
where they had made love. And though he hated it, he knew
it was the right thing to do. So he played along, not
wanting to put her in an awkward situation.
He would soon get over her the way he had...Gabrielle.
It was an old recipe of distance, time, and women.
Distance was the main ingredient. There would be plenty of
vacationing school teachers ready to lose the thick glasses
and the tight ponytails for a vacation romp, hundreds of tan
college girls home for the summer, and even a few local non-
committing cuties eager to aid in his therapy.
The band came back on stage and began a slow country
song. Kathryn reached across the table for his hand, her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 360
long fingers aglow in the soft candle light. “Dance?”
Maybe the gap wasn’t so wide, he thought as he led her
to the dance floor.
As the Six Shooters strummed through the number, Coop
held her close against him, feeling her breasts against his
ribs, her head against he chest. “I’m really going to miss
you, Kathryn,” he said softly, not quite sure if he wanted
her to hear.
She looked up from his chest, her face streaked with
tears. One last droplet lingered in her left eye. “We
still have one night left,” she said. “Let’s not think
about tomorrow.” But tomorrow was going to be there in a
couple of hours, and it was all he could think about.
“What if I kidnap you and Zack and take you to
Florida?” he said, smiling at her smile.
She tip-toed to kiss him. “I think that’s the best
plan you’ve come up with so far, mister.” But he knew she
was playing. It wouldn’t be safe.
“Watch out,” he said. “One day I just might do it.”
He saw the waitress set the steaks and fresh drinks on the
table, but waited for the song to end. He didn’t want to
pull away from her just yet. The next song was another
slow one, and since he didn’t think it should go to waste,
he waited for it to finish. Finally, fifteen minutes later,
after the third slow dance, the Six Shooters livened it up,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 361
clearing the dance floor. Coop led Kathryn back to the
table for a final meal of cold steaks and warm beers.
Conversation was mundane at best, mostly rehashing events
that occurred along their journey. Though he tried to
enthusiastically participate, his heart wasn’t in it. He
wanted to talk about tomorrow, next week, or five years from
now, but she wanted to talk about yesterday, last week, five
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 362
The next morning Coop nudged her awake. “I’m going to
get some coffee,” he said. Kathryn rubbed the sleep out of
her eyes. She didn’t say “Good Morning,” “How’d you sleep,”
or anything but, “We’d better hit the road.”
“We’ll leave as soon as you’re ready.”
“How far we got today?” she said.
“Another six, maybe seven hours,” he said.
“We could be there by twelve?”
“Or one,” he said. It was obvious she was in a hurry
to get on with her life, and understandably so. “I’ll be
back in a sec,” he said and kissed her on the forehead. The
time for goodbye was approaching too quickly. A brief
thought of demoting the Senator passed through Coop’s head,
but he discarded it as soon as it registered. Even if he
did kill the Senator, she would still be on the run. The
CIA was filled with zealots willing to do anything to honor
the memory of their leader. The dilemma with assassinations
had nothing to do with the value human life, but more so
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 363
over the concern of who would replace the fallen leader.
Most times, the new man, being so enraged at the hit, tended
to be more dangerous than his predecessor, and had to be
taken out as well, setting up an endless stream of
demotions. Nowadays, suicides, drug overdoses, heart
attacks, infections, and any other type of bioengineered
hits were the methods of choice. And most were accomplished
not by some American spook, but by someone very close to the
target--long time friends or family were the most efficient.
Even if he could make it look completely innocent, demoting
the Senator would be personal. And no matter how long Coop
had been out the business, he knew enough not to let it get
personal. Besides, it probably wasn’t a very nice thing to
Coop meandered through the parking lot, his mind adrift
on losing Kathryn. He was in a sleepy thought of her,
paying no attention to what was going on around him, having
no idea of his situational awareness. Dmitri wasn’t fully
They bumped into each other as they passed in the
parking lot. Dmitri’s donuts fell, and the two coffees he
was carrying spilled over Coop before either knew who they
had just run into.
When he realized what was going on, Coop reached behind
him for his Browning. Dmitri did the same. But Coop’s
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wasn’t there. It sitting on the night stand.
Dmitri waved the gun in Coop’s face. “What a nice
little coincidence,” Dmitri said. “Stepping out for
breakfast, Cooper?” He looked past Coop, toward the van.
“Look what I found, darling.”
Coop heard a van door open behind him and turned to see
a figure of a woman in the van. She threw Dmitri a plastic
tie wrap, and he secured Coop’s hands.
“Get in,” Dmitri said, poking the barrel into Coop’s
ribs. “Not wearing a vest, are you?” he said and turned to
his wife. “Keep the gun on him. Don’t kill him, though. I
don’t want you to spoil my morning.”
Coop stepped in and sat against a panel of computers,
receivers, and tape recorders. A bulkhead behind the seats
kept him separated from the front. He scanned the inside
for anything he could use as a weapon. The van jerked, and
Dmitri pulled into the road heading into the desert hills.
“So, Coop,” the woman began. The bulkhead blocked his
view of the woman. She, no doubt, could see him through the
half-inch holes in the metal wall. She held the weapon on
him through the holes. “Have you enjoyed your trip?” Her
voice gave her away.
“You tell me. You’re the one that’s been living very
carelessly through me, Anna.”
“But now it looks like you’re the one who been
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careless, Coop,” she said. “You should not have involved
yourself with the woman. You got emotional. You got weak.
Very very careless,” she said, and lit a cigarette. “But
we would have found you anyway.”
“Why did you chase me all the way? That was pretty
stupid. Why didn’t you try something before I left. Or
wait until I got home.”
“You left so suddenly,” Dmitri said. “We had no way of
knowing Gabrielle was going to dump you.”
“Besides,” Anna said, “We have to be in Rio in two
days. We couldn’t wait any longer.”
“You’re going to disappoint a lot of people,” he said
to Anna. “What am I going to tell everyone at the beach?”
“I don’t think you’ll be saying much, Coop,” Anna
“If you’re going to say something, say your prayers,”
“Anna, I heard you were KGB?” Coop said.
“That’s right,” she said.
“What happened?” Coop asked, but followed with, “No.
Don’t tell me. I think I’ve got it figured out. Now that
the cold war has ended, you’ve resorted to stealing secrets
from the capitalist industrialists, then selling them to the
highest Russian bidder. But your reputation went bad when
you stole the plans to “The Clapper,” and the “The Chia
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Pet,” he said. “Am I close?”
“You were always a funny man, Coop.”
“Then why all this? Why come after me?”
“I wish I could offer something perhaps a bit more
dramatic,” Dmitri said. “But it is a very simple, yet
classic motive: revenge.”
“We had everything before you came along,” Anna said.
“Not good like in America, but as good as it could get in
the Soviet Union. But you ruined it,” Anna said.
“But why use Spot?” Coop asked. “Why not me? You
could’ve gotten a lot closer, Anna. Does it bother you at
all that Spot really loves you?” he asked, knowing she
really didn’t care. He wasn’t even sure why he asked.
“The man’s an idiot,” she said. “That’s why he was so
perfect. At first I wanted you, Cooper. But you would have
seen right through me like a mirror.”
“A window,” Coop said. “Seen through me like a
“Yes. You’re right. A window. Besides, I don’t find
you as nearly repulsing as your friend Spot,” she said.
“And I promised Dmitri there would be no...funny business.”
Coop laughed. Anna had led him to an opening. “No
funny business?” he said. “Dmitri, is that what she told
you? Jesus, the way Spot tells it you two were like fucking
rabbits. Some days going from the time you woke up until
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the time you finally passed out, exhausted from screwing
each others brains out. Shit, from what Spot said, he set a
new record, eleven times in in one day!” He faked another
laugh. “Eleven fucking times. I don’t know what you call
that in Russia, but in America, that’s funny business.
That’s a shitload of funny business, Dmitri. That’s more
fucking funny business that most people do in a month.”
“It won’t work, Cooper,” Dmitri said. “I know what you
are doing. Give it away,” he said.
“Give it up,” both Coop and Anna said at the same time.
“Whatever,” Dmitri said.
“That’s good,” Coop said. “Don’t get emotional,
Dmitri. You’ll be able to think better that way.” Coop
looked out the window, planning his next move. He was
trained to handle any situation, but he wasn’t prepared for
what passed by him on the two lane highway, heading toward
the hotel. His heart and stomach jumped in his throat as he
saw Mallory passed by in the black Lincoln. Mallory had
lied, and Coop had been taken in by him. His emotions had
crept up on him like a killer in the night, taking the woman
he loved. His emotions had let him trust Mallory. His
emotions had let him wander through the parking lot. He was
thinking about Kathryn when he ran into Dmitri. For a short
second, he had lost his situational awareness, and
jeopardized Kathryn. Had it not been for his emotions, he
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would not have been in this van. Had it not been for his
emotions, though, Kathryn would’ve died at the diner in
Coop had to get control of the van, turn it around and
get back and stop Mallory. With his hands tied behind him,
the van empty of weapons, and no way to jump Dmitri,
emotions may be his only weapon.
“I’ve seen the videos, Dmitri. You’ve got yourself one
wild woman,” Coop said. “I’ve only seen a woman who can do
that thing with her legs once. And she was a Polish
gymnast. How do you do that, Anna? Were you a Polish
“Good try, Cooper,” Dmitri said and started in on Anna
in Russian thinking that Coop couldn’t understand. “What
thing with the legs? That thing you do for me? He’d better
be lying, Anna. You only do that for me.”
“Of course he’s lying, sweetheart,” Anna replied in
“No I’m not,” Coop said in English. “I’ve got proof.
Spot likes his woman clean shaven,” Coop said. “And I’m not
just talking legs.”
Dmitri scowled at Anna as she looked out the window,
purposely avoiding eye contact.
“But then what about you, Dmitri. I find it hard to
believe you remained true to dear Anna while you showering
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with all the other lonely men in prison. How long before
you became somebody’s little petrukh?,” Coop said. “They
say that shit’ll make your hair turn gray.” Coop chuckled.
“I guess they were right.” Coop must have struck a nerve
with Dmitri. Before Coop could react, Dmitri grabbed the
gun from Anna and squeezed off a wild round. The bullet
glanced off Coop’s arm, ripping the outer layer of skin.
Still in a fury, Dmitri pulled the van off the main
road, and down a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere.
The van stopped, Dmitri jumped out mad as hell, and
opened the door. “Get out,” he said, holding the gun on
Coop. Coop did as he was told. Anna stepped from the van.
“Hold this,” he said, giving his weapon to Anna. “If he
tries anything, shoot him. Shoot him in the fucking head.”
Dmitri blindfolded Coop. They were going to kill him
right there at the side of the road. He had to get the gun
from Anna. With the blindfold on, he expected only one shot
to the head. But Dmitri stepped back, and with a carefully
placed kick between Coop’s legs, crumpled him. As Coop
dropped to his knees, Dmitri’s foot met Coop’s mouth,
knocking a few teeth loose. He struggled to stand.
“It wouldn’t be any fun to just shoot you, you
pervert,” Dmitri said.
“I bet you kept a clean cell for your moosh,” Coop said
and took another kick in the face before he could react. He
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could taste the sand on the leather boot.
Slowly, through the blindfold, Coop began to make out
the shadow images of the two. Anna was standing next to
the passenger door to his left, and Dmitri was in front of
him. Dmitri had slowed his pace, and Coop had to get him
riled again. He tried to recall some of his martial arts
kicks he hadn’t used in awhile. “Did he make you wear a
dress, Dmitri? Crotch less panties, maybe? Did he make you
wear lipstick when you went down on him? You know, the way
Spot made Anna.” That should work.
Dmitri stepped back into Coop’s reach, and Coop made
his move. He crouched slightly to spring, then shot up in
the air, round housing Dmitri in the jaw. He felt something
crack, either his heel or Dmitri’s jaw. He couldn’t tell
which. As he landed, he pushed off, spun, and head butted
Anna against the window, the force turning her toward the
Since Dmitri had no weapon, he wasn’t a priority, so
Coop focused on Anna. He was pressing against her, crushing
her against the door, using all the strength in his legs and
back, not allowing her to move. He could hear the gunmetal
thunk against the door and felt nothing poking into his gut.
The weapon was wedged between her and the door.
He head butted her again, and the window shattered.
She was still fighting. He rammed her again, this time
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straining his neck muscles, forcing her head through the
broken window. He braced for Dmitri’s return as he pressed,
his muscles burning all the way down to his calves. She
shuddered, and Coop pressed harder. With the air out of her
and her circulation cut off, she passed out.
Coop stepped back, expecting her to fall into an
unconscious heap at his feet, but she didn’t. She just
hanged there, losing her grip on the weapon. He heard it
drop to the sand and covered it with his feet, standing
poised for Dmitri’s attack, searching through the blindfold
for any approaching shadows. He waited for a few seconds,
wondering what had happened to Dmitri, then dropped to the
ground. He slid his body through this tied wrists, so that
his hands were in front of him and removed the blindfold.
The desert sun burned his eyes as they adjusted to the
light. When everything came into focus, he saw Anna hanging
against the blood soaked door, the underside of her chin
caught on a jutting piece of window glass, her arms at her
side, her knees bent, her eyes wide and covered in blood.
He turned to find Dmitri on his back in the brush, his neck
broken, his head turned all the way around, his face in the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 372
When he pulled into the hotel lot, Coop couldn’t find
the Lincoln. He threw the van into park and darted to the
room. He stood at the door, afraid of what lay on the other
side. He counted to himself and when he got to three he
Kathryn was on the bed, legs crossed watching CNN.
“Where you’ve been?” she said. He could tell she was
startled. “Oh my God,” she said. “What happened?”
“Dmitri,” he said, shutting the door behind him,
relieved, but still confused she was all right. He
collapsed on the bed. His weapon lay on the nightstand
where he had left it. Anna’s blood had soaked through his
shirt and now crinkled on his skin. “Do I have clean
shirt,” he asked.
“I’ll get your bag,” she said.
Coop looked around. She had made the beds, arranged
the toiletries at the sink, and probably cleaned the
bathroom and vacuumed the floor. He chose not to mention
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 373
Mallory. Either it wasn’t him in the Lincoln, or he was
just passing through. There was no need to upset Kathryn.
When she returned, he dug through the clothes and
pulled out a faded dark green T-shirt. A nice happy color.
A nice, happy, blood-free tee. “C’mon,” he said, sliding
the shirt over his head. “Zack’s waiting for you.”
She smiled with obvious anticipation, and said, “We’re
* * *
They had been on the road for three hours and had three
more to go, and except for the roar of the 1300ccs, there
was silence. No yelling over the engine, no joking, no taps
on the shoulder, and no stops to pee. She wasn’t even
holding on very tight. It was like she was just ready for
their adventure to end. As if she’d had enough and was
ready to move on to the next chapter.
But he thought of going straight to Mexico and taking
her with him. Or hanging a left on I10 and heading back to
Florida. They would send for Zachary as soon as they got to
the beach. They could stay with him for as long as they
wanted. Hell, he had the room. He may just need a little
She’d love Spot’s, the sugar white beaches, the
boardwalk. Zachary would love the telescope, snorkeling for
flounder at dusk, riding in the Hummer. He’d teach Kathryn
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 374
to dive. They’d explore the Pete Tide, the Advocet, The
Russian Freighter. But he also knew it was the end, and in
the end he was just dreaming.
So a little after one in the afternoon, he took the
last turn into the mall parking lot crowded with shoppers.
It must’ve been a Saturday to have been so busy this time of
day. Coop pulled in front of Macy’s and cut the engine.
She released her hold on him and got off the bike. This was
it. He dismounted and began to unstrap the bags.
“You want me to carry this in for you?” he asked.
“That’s okay,” she said. “I can manage.”
He looked around the parking lot if the words he wanted
to say were hidden somewhere amongst the minivans and Jeeps.
This was always the most difficult part for him;
verbalizing what he felt, and not sounding like an idiot.
“Kathryn,” he began, “I--”
As if she knew what he was going to say, she pressed
her fingers to his lips to hush him. “You have to go now,”
she said. “And I have to go now.” She kissed him on the
cheek. “I could have never done this without you. And for
that I will always be thankful.” She kissed him once more,
then said, “Thank you for everything, Coop. I’ll never
But he couldn’t go. He wanted grab her by the
shoulders and tell her he loved her. He wanted her to come
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 375
with him. He wanted to say something. But he didn’t. If
she didn’t leave the country, she’d end up watching
suspicious cars pass in front of the house, wondering who
was approaching on the bike path, and being cautious of the
tourist asking for directions--living her life as he lives
his. All he could do now was wish her luck, kiss her
goodbye, and get out of her life.
“This is it Coop,” she said.
He wanted the moment to linger. “Not yet,” he said.
“I’ve got something for you.” Coop dug an manilla envelope
out of his daypack and handed it to her.
“What is this?” she asked as she slid a finger under
“It’ll help you get where you’re going,” Coop said.
Kathryn lifted the envelope and dumped the contents
into her hand. She stared at the passport in amazement.
“How?” she asked, her eyes wide, tearing as they had done at
the school. She flipped through the passport, then ran her
finger over the laminated inside cover. “It’s perfect,” she
said. “How did you do this? Where’d you get the picture?”
“I figured you wouldn’t be needing you drivers license
anymore,” he said.
“When did you have a chance to do this?”
“Last night when you were asleep. It was the package I
picked up. I have a little kit,” he said with a slight
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 376
shrug. “There’s also a birth certificate,” Coop said.
“It’s folded in the back. You were born in Richmond,
Virginia.” He pointed to the signature block. “See, it’s
even signed by Deanne Huxtable, State Registrar,” he said
proudly. “These are official. You won’t have problem
In her soft voice she said, “Coop, I don’t know how to
thank you. I’m not sure that I ever could.”
“Just think of me from time to time.” This was getting
tough. Coop looked at his watch. “Geeze. Would you look
at the time,” he said. He didn’t care what time it was, but
he couldn’t stand there any longer without telling her how
much he loved her. “I’d better head out,” he said.
“You’re burning daylight,” she replied with a faint
He kissed her on the cheek and said goodbye. Coop
straddled the bike and started it up, joining in with noise
of the passing cars. She was still standing there, waiting,
watching him leave. He gave a little wave and throttled
off, leaving her standing on the sidewalk. He felt like
turning around, but couldn’t. He got her this far, and she
could take care of herself the rest of the way. The trip
was over. He had done what he was supposed to do: deliver
her safe and sound. His job was finished.
He glanced in the mirror and he could still see her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 377
standing and waving, as if she was waiting for him to turn
around. Coop didn’t want her to get away. He had to tell
her how he felt. So, fighting his better judgement, Coop
turned the bike around. He was over a hundred yards away
and could still see Kathryn standing on the curb. She
But something at the end of the lot caught his eye, and
in the distance, he saw the black Lincoln. It only took a
split second for it to register. He had to beat Mallory to
Kathryn. Coop gunned the throttle, aiming his bike at the
He was closing in on fifty miles per hour when Mallory
slowed in front of Kathryn. And even over the noise of the
engine, Coop could hear the automatic weapon fire.
Kathryn’s knees buckled and she fell to the ground.
Coop held tight to the throttle, aiming the bike, focusing
on nothing but the car. He had only one chance to stop
Mallory. He steered the bike into the path of the Lincoln.
At ten yard’s from the car, he lay the bike down, and
rolled into the curb about the same time the bike slid into
the Lincoln, exploding just as the car climbed over the
bike. Coop watched as the black Lincoln jumped three
feet off the ground, then, flaming from the undercarraige,
limped through the lot, around the corner, and out of sight.
He gathered himself and ran to Kathryn, cradling her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 378
head as she lay bloodsoaked, hot, and coughing. He yelled
for someone in the growing crowd to call 911. “Everything
is going to be all right,” he said. “I’m here.” She didn’t
respond. “Don’t leave me, Kathryn,” he said. “You’re going
to be all right.”
She was still breathing, but barely. She tried to
speak but the blood in her mouth held her words. She
reached into the pocket of her jacket and clutched something
in her hands. She pushed her hand to his. Coop opened her
hand and the golf ball he had given her fell out.
“No!” Coop cried. “You can’t!”
Coop felt a firm tap on his shoulder and turned around.
“Let her go, son,” a man said. “I’ll take her from here.
You’ve done all you can do.”
“Who are you?” he said sharply, pulling the Browning
from his waist, pointing it at the man. Coop looked beyond
the man and saw the ambulance.
“I’m the paramedic,” he said.
He turned back to her. “Kathryn,” Coop said, “you
can’t leave me now. I love you. I love you, Kathryn. I
won’t let you go.” For the first time since he was a child
he began weeping.
The EMT knelt beside Coop and felt for her pulse. He
held on for a second or two, then released her delicate
wrist. “She’s gone, sir,” he said. “Let her go.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 379
Coop held her for a moment more until the man pried her
away from him. The other EMT brought out stretcher, lifted
her and swept her away into the ambulance. Coop struggled
to stand, his knees weak, and followed the man to the door
only to have it shut in his face.
“I have to see her,” he demanded, pounding on the door.
“You can’t just take her without me,” he said. “I love her.
And I think she loved me,” he said.
The door opened, and the EMT stuck his head out. “I’m
sure she did, sir.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 380
“You know she did,” Spot said, pouring himself a beer.
It was noon, and Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side
Watering Hole was slowly filling with the suntanned crowd,
downing beer and Bushwhackers, getting in one last
celebration before the weekend ended.
“I guess I’ll never know,” Coop said. It was good to
be back home. He had stayed in Arizona for her funeral,
standing outside the circle of family members, wondering who
everyone was. The man giving the eulogy was someone he
recognized, first by his voice, then by the round, reddish
face he had seen on CSPAN a few days before. General Wright
had stood over her casket expressing how Kathryn had died a
hero, died a mother.
“I guess it’s just the two of us, again,” Spot said,
yanking Coop back into the conversation.
“Thanks, Spot,” he said and finished his beer. “I
think I’ll head home. I’ve got all those tapes to listen to
if I’m ever going to write this book.” He lay five dollars
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 381
on the bar and pushed away.
Coop was almost out the door when Spot called him back.
His voice was low, subdued. “Coop,” he said, then cleared
his throat. “I just wanted to thank you for being honest
with me about Anna. I know coming here and telling me what
happened was probably one of the most difficult things you
could do. A lesser man would have lied and made up some
bullshit story, and I would’ve never known any different,”
Spot said. “I would’ve always been waiting for her to
return, always wondering where she was. I knew she loved
me,” he said. “I could tell.”
“That was the last thing she said before she boarded
the plane back to Moscow, ‘Tell Spot I really really love
him,’” Coop said. So maybe he wasn’t perfectly honest with
him. But why go into the details? The results would be the
same, she was never coming back. And this way Spot could
move on feeling good about himself and what he’d had with
“She said ‘really really’ right?”
“Really really,” Coop said. “Then she said, ‘Tell him
I love him from the heart of my bottom,’ but I think she
meant it the other way.”
“See. I told you she loved me. I knew she did. Oh
well,” he said, and sipped his beer. “Her loss.”
“Her loss,” Coop agreed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 382
Coop dipped and darted, pedalling his way through the
packed parking lot, down the Keenan Memorial bike path, then
up the short white driveway, and into his garage. He leaned
the bike against the wall in front of the Hummer. The
garage looked empty without the Harley.
He hadn’t been looking forward to listening to the
tapes but if he was going to write the book, he had no
choice. He still had no idea what to write, but at least
this way, perhaps on a Bombay inspired night, he may come up
a plan. And he had a feeling there would be plenty of those
Spot had left the house in decent shape, except for a
few stray grits that had cemented themselves to the kitchen
wall. All the furniture was in place; the chair was in
front of the TV. Coop poured three fingers of the Bombay
Saphire, added three semi-circle formations of ice his
refrigerator called ‘cubes’ and squeezed a quarter of a lime
into the glass.
He flipped through the multitude of religious channels,
the plethora of shopping channels, stopping when he saw a
familiar face. General Wright was testifying again for the
Senate Intelligence committee. He left the sound off and
sipped his drink.
The envelope of tapes lay in his lap, he started to
open it when he heard a crash outside the sliding glass door
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 383
and jumped up to investigate. He tugged on the cord to the
verticle blinds, and opened the door. One of Spot’s empties
had fallen over in the breeze.
Slippery Dick Velour was on his deck in his same black
Speedo Sweating to the Oldies, Volume 3, between smoke
breaks. “Hey Coop,” he called. “Where’ve you been? You
missed some excitement around,” he said and lit another
“I heard a little about it,” Coop said turning away.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Federal Agents and everything.
They had search warrants, battering rams, everything.”
“Really,” Coop said and picked up a couple more of
Spot’s empties. “Whose house?”
“Mine. Can you believe it? Apparently a couple of
agents disappeared from out front while they were
Coop straightened. “Why you?”
“I’m making so much damn money, they think it should be
against the law,” he said. “You should climb aboard. I’ve
got an opening for another investor. I can get you a sixty
to two hundred percent return on your investment. The
minimum it takes to get--”
Coop stopped listening when he felt the movement around
his ankles, the slow, vibrating figure-eights welcoming him
home. He took the cat inside and shut the door behind him.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 384
“I was wondering what happened to you,” he said and rubbed
the cat between the ears. He put a handful of Friskies in a
bowl and set the cat down.
The tapes had lain on the counter for a few days. Then
finally, after several trips for more ice, stopping a few
times to rearrange the furniture, and checking on the cat
over and over, Coop had ran out of excuses and opened the
envelope. The tapes spilled into his lap, all numbered,
with dates, locations, and times. He sifted through the
pile and started picking out dates that he wanted to relive.
The good days, like the under the trees, or when he first
met her, or that night on the canyon rim.
One tape mixed in with all the others wasn’t labeled
and had a key taped to the back of the case. Coop popped it
in and heard Kathryn’s voice.
“Hi Coop, it’s Kathryn. Surprise! I know that you had
a lot of questions during our time together and I told you
that I would answer them all. Right now, I’m laying under
the stars at the Coyote Free campground, and you’re asleep.
Somehow, though, I expect that the wind through the
mesquite is not wind at all, but in fact, Coyotes howling in
the distance. But with you here, I feel like nothing can
“Unfortunately, because you are listening to this tape,
I am not available--I guess that would be a nice way of
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 385
putting it--to answer your questions in detail. So I’ll
start from the beginning. But first, one thing, okay, maybe
two. First: Thank you for helping me. It would have ended
totally different had you not come along. I don’t know what
else to say. Second: You have to know that I love you,
Coop. I never told you, but I love you more than I could
have ever imagined loving anyone. It’s all so overwhelming.
I am forever going to love and miss you.
“Now the answers to your questions. As you know,
Zachary is my son. Five years ago, I gave birth to him in a
small hospital in Tennessee. I could have sworn I heard him
cry when I delivered him, but they told me he was stillborn.
They gave me so much medication, they told I must have been
imagining it. For years I would feel a pull, or a tug at my
dress and would look down and no one was there.
“Then a month ago, a man named Jonas contacted me. You
know him as General Wright. At first I thought he was nuts.
The guy can come across a little confusing sometimes. But
as I talked to him, it all began to make sense. Sick,
demented sense. The program is called Operation Prodigy and
has been run by one man; Senator McAlpin. In the fifties,
he was with the CIA, and was put in charge of recruiting for
a special group of agents. No one asked him how he was
going to do it. He had total authority and no
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 386
“He thought it was too difficult to train agents out of
college, so he started sooner. A lot sooner. My baby,
along with hundreds of others over the past thirty or forty
years, had been kidnapped by him and sent to schools like
Zachary attended and trained to be a new breed of agents.
“Yeah, I know. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But
it’s true. I have the proof. And that’s where I need your
help. Take the key, go to Nashville, get the files in the
safe deposit box at the First Tennessee Savings and Loan and
take them to Jonas at the hearings. They are copies of
files and disks I stole from one of McAlpin’s clinics. The
originals I put in another bank, hoping McAlpin would find
them and not come after me. I guess I was wrong.
“Did you know there are tests to show if you made
copies of a document? Jonas told how to get around that.
Anyway, you must get them to him. He’s supposed to testify
soon, if he hasn’t started already. The files contain all
the names of the agents that were ever involved in the
program, along with their mother’s name and her last known
address. Take these files to Jonas and stop this from
continuing. It’s up to you, Coop.
“I’d better go. I love you, Coop. By the way, you
were wonderful tonight. I miss you already.
“Oh I almost forgot...this tape will self destruct in
five seconds...I’ve always wanted to say that.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 387
“I love you.”
He clicked off the tape, sat for a moment in the
silence the house. General Wright’s name was in the blue
box at the bottom of the screen, and Coop turned up the
“No sir,” the General said. “We have no more witnesses
“Then I’m going to have to agree with the fine
statesman from the great state of North Carolina,” Senator
Cranely said. “There is not enough evidence to even suggest
any wrong doing on the part of Senator McAlpin.”
“But sir, I can get you a list of names. It’s just
going to take a day or two. My contact has since died after
securing the list and I am having trouble locating that
“And I suppose I killed her,” McAlpin said to Wright.
“We will adjourn for the day, and reconvene tomorrow at
nine. I’ll decide then whether to proceed or not,” Cranely
said. He looked to the Senator from Florida. “Senator
Varela, all you have accomplished thus far is to manage to
taint the name and character of one of our wisest statesmen.
Senator McAlpin has been selflessly serving this great
country of ours since before you were born, sir. And
because of your paranoia-induced witch hunts, you have
caused the gentle man much pain and suffering. Perhaps you
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 388
should not listen so much to the government’s-gonna-gitcha-
if-you-don’t-watch-out theories of General Wright.
“And General Wright, perhaps you should stop spreading
such hate and discontent. People want to believe that the
person they elect to serve them is on their side. And most
do. I’ve heard your show and it feeds of the insecurities
of those scared, silly, ignorant listeners that tune you in
day after day after day. As a broadcaster, you have
responsibility for what you say. It’s time you took that
responsibility seriously.” Cranely pounded the gavel,
ending the session.
Coop flipped off the set, grabbed his suit from the
closet. He threw in a few pairs of jeans and put the cat
outside with a bowl of food. As an afterthought, he stuck
his laptop in his daypack, and left for the airport.
Two hours later he was on a flight to Nashville, the
safe deposit key in his pocket. Four hours later he was
inside the First Tennessee Savings and Loan, and an hour
after emptying the safe deposit box, he was on the phone to
Special Agent Banister. He agreed to help analyze the
information, so Coop could present his findings if there
The flight landed just after dark, and Dan was waiting
at the gate. He’d lost a lot of weight and was still
coughing. He was pallor, and his hair was thinning.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 389
After a couple of handshakes and some catching up, Dan
said, “So what’s the big mystery?”
“I’ll tell you when we get to the hotel. I’m at the
Stouffers in Crystal City,” Coop said. “Let’s stop and pick
up a some beer. This could take awhile.”
“How long is a while?”
“What do you care? Consider it a date,” Coop said.
“You haven’t had one of those in awhile.”
The room was adequate, but had no sizable work space.
So Coop ordered a six foot folding table and while he waited
for it to arrive, cracked them both a beer and told Dan
about his trip, about Kathryn, Zachary, and General Wright.
“Oh, geeze, not this?” Dan said. “Don’t tell me you
believe this crap.”
“I wouldn’t have a month ago,” Coop said.
When the table arrived, they spread out the papers on
the table, opened another beer, and Dan began scanning the
pages, while Coop popped files in and out of his laptop.
“Just what are we looking for,” Dan asked.
“Anything that links Senator McAlpin to this list of
“Who are these people?”
“It is supposed to be a list of children that were
kidnapped at birth and turned into agents for the CIA.”
“This list goes back to the fifties, Coop. The first
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 390
entry is in fifty four.” Dan flipped through the pages.
“It’s divided up by years, then followed by a list of
“One of the names is supposed to be the kid’s name.
The other, the mother’s name with last known address.”
“So I got a list of names?” Dan said. “What the hell
am I supposed to do with them?”
“I’m not sure,” Coop said. “Read them or something.
I’ve got financials on this disk. It follows the routing
“Coop,” Dan said solemnly.
“Hold on. I’m just about to--,”
“Coop,” Dan said firmly. “You need to see this.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 391
Coop and Dan arrived at the hearings just as the
Cranely struck the gavel. The crowd had thinned out,
leaving only a handful of reporters in the gallery. The
Senators all looked bored. All but McAlpin. He was
“Do you have your list of phantoms, General Wright,”
“No sir,” the General said.
“Then I have no other option than to end these
hearings. You’ve cost the tax payers quite a bit of money,
General. And I think you owe--”
Coop cleared his throat. “I have that list, Senator,”
Coop called from the back of the room. McAlpin’s smile
dropped as his assistant whispered in his ear.
“And who are you, sir?” Cranely asked.
“Cooper Sumner, Senator.”
“And how are you connected to this hearing?”
“I am the one holding the ace, Senator.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 392
“And how might that be?” Senator McAlpin said.
“I present you the list of names of all the children
that were taken from their loving mothers and put in special
schools, later becoming agents for the Central Intelligence
Agency. These children were taught how to speak several
languages perfectly. They were taught military strategy by
the time they were eight, how to escape and evade by ten,
how to kill a man by twelve. Hell, they knew how to
infiltrate foreign governments by age fifteen.”
“That’s absurd,” Cranely said and waved for security.
A marine guard approached Cooper, but didn’t stop Coop from
“As the children became high school age, some were sent
overseas to various Soviet Bloc countries as well as China
and North Korea to be, quote, adopted, by local families--
U.S. sympathizers working for the CIA. The students
excelled in school, and upon graduation, were recruited for
the military academies. There, our children, over time,
became moles at the highest levels of Communist government.”
“Are you finished, Mr. Sumner?” McAlpin asked.
“Not quite, sir,” Coop said. “Some of the boys stayed
here in the U.S. to finish their education. From there they
went on to sniper school in Quantico, Jump school at Ft.
Bragg, Scuba school in Panama City, Survival School at Eglin
and Fairchild. The ones that made it went on to the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 393
different Military Academies then into the service of the
CIA, NSA, DIA, ISA, or a combination of all agencies,
forever loyal to Mother America.”
“So am I to believe we raised a bunch of educated
assassins, Mr. Sumner?”
“No sir,” Coop replied. “Some boys didn’t fit the
profile. They became office workers, generic government
employees, hairdressers, whatever. Some never made it into
“Come now, Mr. Sumner,” Cranely began. “If that’s the
case, then why haven’t any of these men come forward to
testify against Senator McAlpin?”
“Senator, these men have no idea they’re in this
program. They all think they were orphaned. That’s why
this program has been so successful for over forty years.”
“I still find it hard to believe, sir, that none of
these men are aware of their roles.”
“Senator, if I can find one man to step forward, will
that proof be enough to investigate further?”
The Senator thought for a moment. “I should think so,”
the Senator said. “Thus far we only have hearsay. Nothing
Coop stepped forward and handed the list to Cranely.
“Senator, I would like you to read the list of names on page
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 394
“Very well,” Cranely said.
“This is ludicrous,” McAlpin screamed jumping up from
his seat, slamming his fist on the table. “Absolutely
ludicrous.” McAlpin pushed his way through the other
Senators to the end of the row. “I will not sit by and--”
“And what?” Cranely asked. “As a member of this
committee you will adhere to the decorum. Now please, sit
back down.” He looked back to Coop. “Page four?”
“This is bullshit!” McAlpin yelled, his face turning
red. “The man’s a liar. He’s got no proof. We can’t
listen to him.”
“Senator McAlpin!” Cranely yelled. “You’re way out of
control. Get a hold of yourself,” Cranely said and turned
to Coop. “The list starts with Brunson, Frank L.. Mother’s
name: Francis Pickett, address 103 West Montgomery Road,
Saginaw, Michigan, deceased. Next, Guillaume, Robert M..
Mother’s name: Julie Bennett, address 13432 Prairie Terrace
Drive, Souix Falls, South Dakota, deceased.” The Senator
stopped reading and looked over his glasses at Coop. “Are
you sure you want me to continue, Mr. Sumner?”
“Please, Senator,” Coop said.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s all a bunch of lies!” McAlpin screamed. “There’s
no proof,” he said as he charged Cranely. “No fucking
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 395
Cranely nodded toward the Marine guard, and the guard
moved to contain McAlpin.
When there was silence, Cranely asked again. “Are you
sure you want me to continue, Mr. Sumner?”
“Very well,” Cranely said and began reading. “Sumner,
Cooper M.. Mother’s name: Dorthy Halston--.”
What little press there was began gasping and hooting
so loud, the Senator had to stop reading. It didn’t matter.
Coop knew what the rest said.
“I was one of those boys, sir. One of those boys who
was taken away from his mother and raised by the government.
Like the rest of the children, my mother was a single,
college educated woman, with no family to speak of. My
mother, after having checked into the clinic was over
medicated during the delivery and was later told I had died
“Dr. Vlatnikov, a former Russian Minister of Health,
was the attending physician, and was being blackmailed by
McAlpin with the threat of being returned to Russia.
Returning to Moscow meant certain death for the doctor, so
he did what he was told. He kept quiet until confessing his
involvement the night he died. Fortunately, he confessed to
the right man. None of this would have ever surfaced had it
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not been for General Wright.”
“And what exactly was your role with the government?”
“I, sir, have gone black to--”
“Explain gone black?” Cranely asked.
“Worked and lived under illegal concealment to
infiltrate such organizations as the Russian Mafia, the KGB,
a few radical Islamic groups, and a couple of Nazi wannabes.
Hell, I’ve even been placed in the FBI just to gain intel
on their counter espionage missions.”
“So you were a spy.”
“I’ve also performed sanctions--maximum demotions. My
last official hit was the drug lord and former CIA advisor
“I thought we outlawed assassinations with the
executive order,” Cranely said.
“That order only pertained to heads of state,” Coop
said. “Not terrorists and enemies of the state.”
Senator Cranely looked over his glasses to McAlpin,
standing at the end of the long table. The man’s face had
turned from red to a pale blue. “Senator McAlpin? Care to
McAlpin blotted the sweat from his forehead and turned
to Beckett for reassurance. In a very confident voice he
began. “Sacrifices must be made,” he said. “These things I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 397
did, I did for everyone here. The Russians were so far
ahead of us in the Cold War, the freedom fighters we trained
in Afghanistan had turned against us and had begun blowing
up our embassies, and the organized crime families in Russia
were building up an arsenal to take over when their
country’s capitalism experiment failed. And, gentlemen,
during the height of the Cold War, I was tasked with
changing the way we conduct the business of spying. I doubt
that any of you fine gentlemen, and esteemed colleagues
could have come close to making the kind of decisions I
made. Does a leader risk the lives of a thousand men to
save one? Hell, no,” he said. “Sacrifices must be made.
And I was the one who had to decide who to sacrifice.
“I sacrificed these orphans, gentlemen, so that the
children you love could live free. I sacrificed
illegitimate children who would have likely ended up on the
welfare roles with their mamas, digging for food from
dumpsters.” McAlpin opened his arms as if in a plea.
“That’s all they were; just a bunch of illegitimate
children. We did the world good.”
The whole room sat silently in disbelief as the Senator
continued his tirade. When he finished, he sat on the edge
of the table ready to field questions like any other press
conference. But everyone seemed too bewildered to ask
questions, or to even speak, and the Senator searched the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 398
room for a sympathetic face. He had misread his audience,
everyone was still in shock at his confession. The Senator
suddenly realized he was alone in his beliefs and no matter
how he tried to explain his motives, he words would fall on
deaf ears. Even Beckett wouldn’t look him in the eye.
Cranely motioned for the guard. “By law I have to
detain you, Senator,” Cranely said. The guard reached for
McAlpin’s hands, but didn’t reach them fast enough.
McAlpin drew his handgun, and with one shot, took
down the Marine guard. Coop dove to the ground, tipping
over a table in time for it to intercept the round intended
for him. From his position, Coop saw the desperate look on
Beckett’s face as the Senator lowered the weapon on him.
Beckett made a move to dodge it, but the round caught him in
the left eye.
The Senator faced the crowd, put the gun to his mouth
and said, “Sacrifices must be made, gentlemen.” There was a
long pause before the fourth and final shot rang out; a
pause long enough for everyone on the ground to look up and
see the Senator put his lips around the barrel and pull the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 399
Dorthy ambled over with the coffee pot and poured
Tiffany a cup, then one for herself. The weather was
finally warming, and her arthritis was coming along much
better. The lunch crowd had died down and only three people
were left eating.
“Nice to have the tax man off your back, I’ll bet.”
Tiffany said. “It’s been two months since that stranger was
“Are you sure it was that guy you remembered?”
“I’m positive,” Dorthy said. “I remember him plain as
day. He reminded me so much of Winston.”
“Your first husband?”
“That’s right,” she said. “I was just pouring out the
stale coffee and the fella walks in and sits down. Since he
was the only one in here, we chit-chatted for a while as he
ate. Said his name’s Cooper, he lives in Florida and was
just passing through on his way to a family reunion. He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 400
must have been hungry because he stayed for over four hours
and ate three plates of bacon. Then as he pays his check,
that tax man walks in and starts running his mouth.”
“What did his nails look like?”
“I don’t remember, Tiffany. I didn’t look. He had the
biggest blue eyes, though. You would’ve loved them. They
reminded me of Winston’s. Anyway, he says he’s taken enough
of my time, gives me a hug, and leaves. Three days later, I
got a notice saying I was free and clear of all my taxes.”
“Are you sure it was him? Maybe they made a mistake?”
“Don’t think so,” Dorthy said.
“Was he married? Maybe he’s still around.”
“He seemed like a loner, Tiff. He didn’t carry much
“Well, I guess now you’re a rich woman, Dorthy. No
more tax problems.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “But a lot of other
people seem to. All I got is this job that pays $300 a
week, and some stupid bank in Grand Cayman keeps sending me
“Where’s Grand Cayman?”
“South of Cuba,” Dorthy said and picked up the latest
letter from the bank and tossed it into the drawer with the
others. “I’ve got $500 dollars in my passbook, and
everybody wants to give me a gold card.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 401
Tiffany dug the out the envelope and opened it. “Maybe
you’ve accumulated some interest,” she said and scanned the
statement. She stopped scanning and set the paper down.
“I’ll say you’ve gained some interest. About one and a half
million worth of interest.”
“What are you going on about, girl.” Dorthy snatched
the statement from Tiffany’s hand. “Let me see that.”
Tiffany started screaming, dancing around the diner.
“You’re a millionaire, Dorthy. An absolute millionaire.”
Dorthy looked over the statement. This had to be a
mistake. “I’m calling the bank,” she said. “Something must
be wrong.” She dialed the 800 number on the statement, and
when customer service answered, Dorthy said, “I’d like to
check on an account please.” She gave the account number
and some security information.
“Dorthy,” the woman on the line said. “We’ve been
waiting to hear from you. Didn’t you get any of the letters
“I thought it was junk mail,” Dorthy said. “I’ve never
done business with you in my life.”
“You’re right, ma’am. This account was open by someone
who wishes to remain anonymous. The funds are in an single
account with rights of survivorship.”
“Any idea who it is?”
“There is a note here in the comments section that says
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 402
‘Tell Dorthy she’s a woman any son would be proud to have as
a mother.” There was a long silence. Dorthy didn’t know
what to say. The tears welled up in her eyes, and she
recalled that she hadn’t had any of her spells since she had
seen the stranger from Florida in her diner. She broke down
on the phone, dropping to her knees sobbing, wondering if
there was any way her baby had lived.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 403
It was now February and the lull of the winter months
were a relaxing welcome for the locals. Coop had finished
the book and it was still riding high on the New York Times
Best Seller’s list. An L.A. production company had even
expressed an interest in making it a movie. But with all
the attention surrounding the book, Coop managed to keep
holed up in his house for the most part, venturing out only
when he couldn’t stand being alone. Today was on of those
The winds were calm, and the beach was quiet. Gone
were the tourists, the college crowd, the families with
screaming children. Now it was the islander’s turn to have
some fun. The places weren’t pack and didn’t have that
vacation attitude, but that’s what made it more intimate.
It was a deep breath the island took every year before
getting ready for the spring.
Coop followed his regular path past the solar powered
Hippy Hut, past the Miami Vice house, past Chung King
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 404
Palace, then down the bike path to Spot’s Exotic Animals and
Gulfside Watering Hole.
“You’re looking rather dapper today,” Spot said,
reaching a beer out of the cooler. “I haven’t seen you
dressed up in a while.”
He had worn his favorite khakis and thick navy blue
cotton sweater over a white tee shirt. “I’ve got an
appointment,” Coop said. “I’m meeting a woman.”
“Well it’s about time. I haven’t seen you with a woman
since you got back from your trip. I was beginning to get
worried that maybe you really had given up women.”
“It’s not that kind of meeting,” Coop said. “It’s
business. Besides, I’ve haven’t had time for anyone since
then.” He also had no desire to meet anyone. His life was
working out fine. He had a best seller, a new Harley, and
he had taken care of his mother.
He still thought about going back to South Dakota and
telling his mother the truth. She had lived her life
without knowing she had a child, and had accepted it. It
seemed a cruel and selfish idea to force his desire for
family on her. If he did tell her, Coop would always wonder
if it was his need for family, someone to love him, that
would pull him to tell her, or would it be the selfless
desire to share the truth. He doubted the latter. The
woman he loved was gone forever, and his mother, someone he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 405
had dreamed and wondered about his entire life, was
unapproachable. He looked across the bar and realized the
only relationship he had in his life was with Spot.
“What’s so funny?” Spot asked.
“Nothing,” Coop said. “Why?”
“You were laughing,” Spot said.
“I hadn’t noticed.”
The door creaked open, pouring in the sunlight. Coop
turned to see a familiar face. “Ah, the mysterious Dr.
Chang,” Coop said.
“Hi guys.” She was smiling, wearing a faded red
sweatshirt and khaki shorts. Her short hair was tucked
behind her ears.
Spot’s life had improved over the last year. It came
to light why Chang had acted as if she had seduced Coop, and
why she was kissing Dmitri at Spot’s bar. Of course she
finally had to spell it out for him before Spot understood
she had been trying to make him jealous. She had admitted
her attraction to him since day one, and for some reason,
never trusted Anna. She called it women’s intuition. Spot
and Chang had had been together since the Grits Incident, as
they called it.
“How are my two favorite nonproductive members of
society?” she asked and tiptoed over the bar for a kiss from
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 406
“Living up to your expectations,” Coop said. “He’s
pouring and I’m drinking.”
“Then pour me one,” she said. “I want to do my part.”
“Have you heard anything from the movie people?” Susan
asked, as she settled onto a stool, watching Spot make her
“I’m supposed to meet with one today. She’s passing
through and wanted to ‘talk film,’ as she says.” He sipped
his beer. “It’s probably just another whacko.”
“Could this be her?” Spot said, nodding toward the
door. Coop and Susan turned on their stools. She was a
young woman. Much younger than she had sounded on the
“She’s a pretty good looking whacko,” Spot said.
“I’m here to meet Mr. Cooper Sumner,” the woman said to
Spot. She had a deep, husky, three pack a day voice that
didn’t match her delicate, smooth face.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Sumner. I’m Evelyn Warden of the
Warden Productions. We spoke on the phone.” She stuck her
hand out, erect, formal, too polite. She wore thick, dark
sunglasses that swallowed her most of her face. She didn’t
remove them in the dim light. It was probably a “Hollywood
thing.” Coop introduced her to his friends.
“Ahh, the mysterious Dr. Chang,” the woman said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 407
Susan looked at Coop puzzled.
“You’re in the book,” Coop admitted.
“What about me?” Spot said. “Guess which one I am.”
“You, without a doubt, are Spot.”
“Beer?” Coop asked, though he knew she probably wanted
a wine spritzer or a bottled water.
“Bourbon, please,” she said. “Clean.”
Spot obliged, and the two found a seat away from the
bar. “So you want to make the book into a movie?” Coop
asked, not really sure how these conversations are suppose
to begin. She had a familiar face, like a face he had seen
on TV. He had been watching a little too much the past
eight months. Her red hair was the color of Ginger’s from
Gilligan’s Island. He still had no idea why he left the
damn TV plugged in.
“Yes,” she said. “And I’m most interested in the
relationship between you and the woman...Katelyn? That was
her name, right?”
“Kathryn,” he said.
“Whatever,” she said and sipped her drink. “Forgive
me, Mr. Sumner, but it all seems so quaint. So neat,” she
said. “How could this all be true?”
There was something about her he didn’t like.
Actually, except for her choice of drink, there wasn’t
really anything he did like. She had no right to question
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 408
or ridicule how he felt about Kathryn. “What’s your point,
“My point is, did you fall in love with this Kathryn
person because it was all so...convenient and tidy? Or did
you truly have feelings for her. Audiences can detect that
you know.” She said it in such a snotty way, he didn’t want
to continue the conversation and he sure as hell didn’t want
this snob turning his book into a movie.
“They were, and still are, quite genuine, Ms. Warden,”
he said, trying to be calm. Coop didn’t want to open wounds
long closed by distance and time. And he sure as hell
didn’t have to justify anything to this woman. If this was
the way it was going to be, he didn’t want any part of it.
“I’m sorry you came all this way for nothing, Ms. Warden,
but if you’ll excuse me,” he said and stood.
“I think it will work out fine, Coop,” she said, losing
the husky voice. It was voice he hadn’t heard in over a
Coop looked down at the woman and slowly found his
seat. She had removed her dark glasses, and his eyes
settled on her black pupils dripping into her green iris.
Her hair had been colored, and restyled. Her face was tan,
her lips red and full. She had even gained a little weight.
He didn’t speak.
“It’s me,” she whispered. “Kathryn.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 409
He felt like his blood sugar dropped a hundred points.
“But how?” was all he could manage to say.
“Mallory. It was all his idea. He said I needed to
have funeral. He helped me out.”
“But...” Nothing had ever left him this speechless in
he life. Across from the table was the only woman he truly
ever loved and he didn’t know how to tell her. He would
remain cool and collected, and let her make the first move.
“I haven’t stopped thinking about you since that day,” he
said instead. “Why didn’t you tell me? You could have
“You’re not pissed, are you?” she said and smiled.
Coop remembered their discussion under the swaying
oaks. “No,” he said. “But don’t expect me to be at your
“I’m sorry,” Kathryn said. “But Mallory said we
shouldn’t tell anyone. He said you didn’t have a need to
know. I hated to do it, but I had no idea you felt that
way. You should have said something sooner.”
“I wanted to say something in the beginning. But
couldn’t.” He had to restrain himself from leaning across
the table to kiss her.
“I wanted to come back sooner, but I kept remembering
what you said about not going back and forth from the new
life to the old. Finally I just had to do it,” Kathryn
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 410
said, as she reached across the table for his hand. “I
missed you so much. You’re all I could think about.”
“I know how you feel,” Coop said. Not a day went by
that he didn’t wish she were with him.
“Zachary and I have a little place on the beach in
Belize. It’s beautiful. Every morning we walk along the
shore and look for shells. He’s learning how to snorkel.
He even brought home a fish the other day.”
“Sounds like you turned out to be a wonderful mother,”
“It’s so strange, Coop. I can’t imagine not being with
him. I never realized how empty my life was,” she said.
“I told you you’d do fine,” he said.
“I’m still missing one thing, Coop.”
“Why don’t you come down and stay for awhile. We can
take things day by day. Zack is always asking about you.”
“What about you?”
“Me?” she asked.
“You,” Coop said. “Are you always asking about me?”
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” she said.
Coop stood, lay five dollars on the table, and reached
for her hand. It fit in his like it was formed especially
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline 411
for it. “Spot,” he said, tossing his house keys to him.
“I’ve got to go out of town for awhile. Do me a favor?
This time, feed the cat.”